Of noise and nuisance

By Gowhar Geelani. Dated: 4/12/2018 7:24:12 PM

Let us face an unadulterated truth: There are two boundaries in Kashmir's political landscape. One is represented by the resistance camp which includes voices in favour of the right to self-determination, complete independence of Jammu and Kashmir region from India's rule or Kashmir's merger with Pakistan. And the armed rebel groups. Second is the pro-India ideology which is espoused by political forces like the National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Though these two parties bat for J&K's regional autonomy and self-rule, they do not challenge India's sovereignty.
In between the two lies a space occupied by coalitions of civil society, independent opinion makers, rights defenders, journalists, activists and artists etc. Like common masses, most of them are also in favour of a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
On 31st July 2005, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) had taken a bold and the much needed initiative that of bringing leaders and opinion makers representing competing ideologies on a single platform to explain their respective visions for Kashmir before common citizens.
Khurram Parvez, Kashmir's prominent rights defender and coordinator of JKCCS, under a debate programme titled People's Vision (2005) extended invite to the NC leader Omar Abdullah and JKLF Chief Mohammad Yasin Malik to speak about Kashmir. Both leaders representing different ideologies (pro-autonomy and complete independence) spoke before a packed audience in Srinagar and faced questions.
As part of this debate series, the JKCCS in 2006 invited resistance leaders Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Mehbooba Mufti too was invited but did not participate.
Since then, a wide chasm existed for such healthy debates where leaders of various groups and amalgams could come together on a single platform to talk, share their view and vision and also listen to civil society voices.
Healthy debates are hallmark of a healthy and vibrant society. If there is no debate there is no understanding. In the absence of intellectually stimulating debates there is noise, nuisance and violence.
Talking to those one agrees with serves no purpose.
On 8 April 2018, Sunrise in Kashmir, a group which claims to be a community and non-governmental organisation, organised a Talk Show programme titled Ru'baru at a local hotel in Srinagar. It invited young leaders from the National Conference, PDP, Congress, BJP, and also student activists, independent opinion makers, journalists and commentators to discuss Kashmir: The Way Forward With Youth.
The two separate sessions were recorded and also live streamed via social media spaces.
As it often happens in Kashmir, the event meant a field day for some naysayers and the usual suspects who think everyone except them have a right to opinion and everyone else should first seek permission from them to speak on Kashmir.
Leading journalists representing The Outlook, The Hindu, Greater Kashmir, Rising Kashmir, Kashmir Readers, and radio jockeys of 92.7 Big FM attended and covered the event.
I, in the capacity of independent journalist, commentator and analyst, was also invited as a speaker for the first session in which young leaders of the NC, PDP, Congress, BJP and a prominent student activist also participated. Television journalist Shuja Ul Haq moderated both sessions.
Touchwood, the new generation of Kashmir offers a lot of hope. It is conscious, educated, assertive and opinionated. That way, Kashmir is indeed very blessed.
Having an informed opinion is important. Constructive criticism is also a must.
The worry though is that there are a few individuals, notorious bands, and free hires who pass value judgment without an informed opinion, absolute lack of understanding of issues, and jealousy, personal hatred for people because of someone's success, caste or rural-urban divide, and, sometimes, just because you may not be part of their grand coterie culture. They have no argument except abuse, vitriol, propaganda, deceit, lies and personal attacks.
Ideally, I'd have never written this piece.
For I do not believe in launching oneself into a long diatribe, attack individuals left, right and centre, call names in the absence of an argument or cast aspersions just because one enjoys the liberty that social media space offers to each one of us on a platter.
I will still restrain myself and will not name and shame anyone publicly, but will make some broader points to make some people understand that their nuisance and noise have no value. The good news is that they continue to remain isolated, both intellectually as well as socially.
The flawed argument made by some long-distance nationalists, digital Che Gueveras, the usual suspects and burger-fed intellectuals, their freelance sidekicks, fake accented fakes and their coterie members is that by participating in a debate, talk show or a seminar (which is recorded and contents of which are available in public domain) amounts to lending legitimacy to other panellists who espouse pro-India politics in Kashmir.
One's participation in debates, discussion and television shows does not legitimize or delegitimize anyone. People's participation in elections or their boycott of polls makes all the difference. Votes lend legitimacy.
No one raised fingers when Yasin Malik and Omar Abdullah were on a single platform. No one accused anyone of giving legitimacy to anyone. Why this smokescreen now?
Pro-India politics in Kashmir is a reality which one can't deny. We may not agree with this brand of politics, but we can't say it does not exist. Like it or not, it does exist.
I, for one, believe that the right to self-determination means respecting people's choices. Of all people. Not just mine. It is not about 'my way or the highway'. I cannot thrust my pro-resolution opinion on everyone I meet or know of and about.
The second flawed argument is how come the state allows space to some while others are denied that space. Well, leaders, leading rights defenders, noted journalists, novelists, writers and many other well-known academics, researchers, student activists, analysts, historians, anthropologists have been part of many a public event. Everything they say or write is in the public domain.
Those who raise silly questions (while flaunting pompous nationalism and having an inflated opinion of themselves as if they are the new-age prophets who can never be asked questions in return) should realise that they too are accountable and answerable to people.
If they are so 'anti-state' and 'pro-tehreek', as they claim and make everyone around believe so, how do they manage to get their travel documents cleared by various intelligence agencies? How are passports issued in their favour? How come they manage to get away so easily?
The small point is that if they can cast aspersions left, right and centre on everyone, saying 'why some people are allowed to speak', they too can be questioned how do they get away so easily?
This I am not saying to cast aspersions on them. I wish them the best. But they have no right to accuse and abuse people. There is a line which one must not traverse.
A few other deceptive mavericks (who are part of the media fraternity) also raise questions like 'why did people share stage with A, B and C to give legitimacy to X, Y and Z'? This holier-than-thou crew should realise that I do what I do, in open, say what I say in public events and write what I write in public domain. Like one maverick, I do not secretly meet the Chief Minister and then keep a saintly image in public.
I, as a professional journalist, do not cast aspersions on them for secretly meeting the Chief Minister Cabinet Ministers. I do not infer that their visit to the CM's officer a few days ago secretly gives legitimacy to CM's chair; I do understand that we, as journalists, should meet everyone to understand various facets of the ground reality that exists in Jammu and Kashmir.
It is a professional requirement and a professional predicament.
Meeting people representing various shades of opinions offers various perspectives to journalists and makes their copies better. As journalists, one has to meet the Hurriyat leaders, people from the JKLF, DFP, NC, PDP, Congress, BJP, Police, Army, stone-throwing youths, families, victims, survivors, members from the business fraternity, corporate houses, bureaucrats, civil servants, government employees etc.
Our meetings, courteous calls, hellos, handshakes and hugs do not give legitimacy to anyone. It just means that we are civil and part of a close-knit society.
Noise and nuisance doesn't work.



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