Tag Archives: Tarun Vijay

Stone pelters of Srinagar and the walnut tree

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/indus-calling/entry/stone-pelters-of-srinagar-and

Stone pelters of Srinagar and the walnut tree

Tarun Vijay, 01 July 2010, 08:40 PM IST

Rafiq was a small-time wage earner in Srinagar. He worked in a suburban bag factory as a semi-skilled labourer. His cousin had been found dead in police custody a day before and hence he took leave to join the jenaja — last journey of his dear cousin the week we were in Srinagar to organize a seminar in memory of Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who laid his life for the full and irreversible integration of Kashmir with the rest of India. Suddenly stone pelting began by some of those who were part of the jenaja, as anger mounted to see police personnel in the way, resulting in a shootout.

Next moment, Rafiq, who had come to share the grief of the loss of his brother, was dead. A stray bullet had pierced through him.

I felt disturbed hearing the news. What was Rafiq’s crime? How can one explain to the mother and sister of the poor fellow the reason of his jeneja at the age of 28? Couldn’t the police have acted with some restraint and let the anger pass with looking the other side or just keeping away from the jenaja route? Can all the Muslims in Srinagar or the valley be dubbed anti-nationals and terrorists? If we say the valley belongs to us, then those who people the valley must also be owned up and made to feel our warmth of belongingness.

Kashmir is us. Then surely the people too are our own.

And so was Colonel Neeraj Sood, who died fighting the terrorists. He laid down his life courageously serving the motherland. While we empathized with the family of Rafiq and felt strongly about how police can be further restrained, I found no one, in Srinagar publicly mourning the martyrdom of Colonel Sood.

No politician went to salute his body at the airport, no media organization wrote about his death with a sense of sorrow.

On the contrary, there was a provocative glee on the front pages of the Kashmir dailies describing the colonel’s death.

Why?

The security forces are in Kashmir on the orders of the constitutional powers and they are simply obeying the democratically elected governors. The same people are happily accepted as personal security guards by even the separatist leaders of the valley, but are often mocked at, almost lynched and brutalized when found lonely and vulnerable. I can understand the anger among Delhi or Murshidabad people against the rough and rude behaviour of a police force run under a colonized framework, but if a soldier in khaki is beaten up in Srinagar, it’s not because he is wearing khaki. It’s India he represents. His motherland, India, which is beaten up.

Why?

If the Srinagar youth are us and we feel an affinity with them, it’s not because they are pro-Pakistan or demand separatism, but because we feel they are Indians and we must show our camaraderie to them as fellow citizens living under the grace of the tricolour. Hence, we must share their agonies and pains and dreams and ambitions to rise like Shah Faisal, who topped the Indian Civil Services exam and wants to be a role model for the Kashmiri youth — not the stone pelters.

Jawans of the security forces, which include the police too, are as much children of Mother India as are the Indian Kashmiri youth of the valley.

I visited various parts of Kashmir and know for sure the trouble that hogs the limelight in Delhi and elsewhere is simply limited to a few urban centres crowded by a lazy and almost semiliterate on Kashmir, national and international media. The whole exercise of the stone pelters and their “abbas” is to attract attention and show that not everything is fine in Srinagar. The local people, be those shikarawallas (boat owners in Dal Lake) or small shopkeepers want their business to run, see their children grow in a happy atmosphere, have them study in good schools and colleges and rise in life. For them, business means attracting more tourists. They feel aghast that if these stone-age separatists are so devoted to Kashmiri welfare, why do they spoil their business in the peak tourist season? They don’t want to shut their shops and businesses almost every other day, sometimes for weeks at a stretch, but the fear of getting killed by the anti-national elements and having no corner to take shelter, they yield to the bandh calls of the terrorist groups. It’s the separatists who are using the common Kashmiri as cannon fodder to their lunatic agitational approach, funded and guided by Islamabad. They have a vested interest in keeping the common people poor, backward and indulging in stone pelting, because a happy, prosperous and peaceful Kashmir would delegitimize their claims and demands.

So what happens when a Shiva temple is burnt on the outskirts of Srinagar during a bandh call? Or an Amarnath Yatra is sought to be shrunk to just 15 days in the name of environment protection by those who were responsible to kill the Dal lake with pollutants and have nothing to say about that? When the falsehood overpowers the stark naked truth and the media laps up the make-believe stories strengthening a notion that all Kashmiris support separatism? Nothing.
Half a million Hindus were coerced to leave their homes and nothing happened. Temples were destroyed and nothing happened. Not even a feeble series by a chivalrous mediaperson to document the destruction of places of Hindu worship. The president of the Bar Association of Srinagar gave a statement to the press that said: “I am not Indian.” It was front-paged by many newspapers. Nothing happened. An advocate, who declares that he is not an Indian, is practising in the courts and the authorities are keeping a silence on his mouthful of anti-India statements. Being an Indian has become a matter of loss in Kashmir with the Centre’s Nehruvian policies and provincial politicians using separatist emotions for votes.

No stories on Hindus who still remain in Srinagar and Anantnag. They seem to have been categorized as expendable.

Kashmir is full of good, noble-hearted and intelligent people. It’s only the small coterie of separatists fed on New Delhi’s appeasement and American support (like Hurriyat — no base except a Washington-Islamabad helpline). A scholarly politician, a Muslim leader, was in tears while describing the pathetic condition of Hindus in the valley. And he narrated a true story of an abandoned Hindu home that turned my eyes moist.

In a village near Srinagar, abandoned by Kashmiri Hindus, he saw a walnut tree peeping out of a window. It was a strange sight. Walnut trees are grown in an orchard and not in drawing rooms. He went close and found the tree had taken roots inside a room and since the windows were broken, it grew to the side where the light of the sun came from. The plants always grow like that, towards the sun. How was it possible that a walnut tree was planted inside a room? No, perhaps, and he used his imagination, when the Hindus were on a run, in a hurry a member of the household might have left some walnuts inside the room. Years of moisture and a dilapidated condition of the house, which used to reverberate with sounds of laughter and tears of joy or mourning, made the left-over walnuts take root and grow.

Take root and grow?
A house was turned into a jungle.
And nobody would like to speak about it.
A walnut tree grew from inside a house.

Usually, and quite naturally houses grow under a tree shadow. Trees never grow from within a living house.

The walnut tree growing from inside a baithak, a living room of a family must be telling a tale. Where were the samovars, children, the kahwa and the songs when the walnut took a root?

And the slogans of the Hindu Muslim unity, the sufi tradition, the message of brotherhood emanating from Charar -i-Shareef and Hazrat Bal?

No one answered.

I share the grief of Rafiq. But not at the cost of forgetting the martyrdom of Colonel Sood.
I must, with thanks, reproduce a poetic tribute by Shiv Om Rana to Colonel Neeraj Sood here as my tribute to a great martyr:

An ode to Late Col Neeraj Sood

(who laid down his life Kashmir while chasing terrorists)
Rest In peace.
O! My brother-in-arms.
For you wished very young,
To be thus destined.
Expect not your countrymen,
Or political masters
To mourn or give a trime.
For them your life is yet another brine.
TV channels will show a flick or two,
So will print media do.
But all will be forgotten
In another day or two.
Only your family will carry the cross
Of missing son, brother
Husband or father
For rest of their life.
Rest In peace.
O! My brother-in-arms.
For you wished very young,
To be thus destined.

My name is not Khan, I am Mr Kaul

Tarun Vijay Tuesday December 22, 2009, 08:55 AM
Link – http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/indus-calling/entry/my-name-is-not-khan

I am not Khan. My name bears a different set of four letters: K A U L. Kaul. As those who know Indian names would understand I happened to be born in a family which was called Hindu by others. Hence, we were sure, we would never get a friend like KJ to make a movie on our humiliations, and the contemptuous and forced exile from our homeland. It’s not fashionable. It’s fashionable to get a Khan as a friend and portray his agony and pains and sufferings when he is asked by a US private to take off his shoes and show his socks. Natural and quite justifiable that Khan must feel insulted and enraged. Enough Masala to make a movie.
But unfortunately I am a Kaul. I am not a Khan.
Hence when my sisters and mothers were raped and killed, when six-year-old Seema was witness to the brutal slaughtering of her brother, mother and father with a butcher’s knife by a Khan, nobody ever came to make a movie on my agony, pain and anguish, and tears.
No KJ would make a movie on Kashmiri Hindus. Because we are not Khans. We are Kauls.
When we look at our own selves as Kauls, we also see a macabre dance of leaders who people Parliament. Some of them were really concerned about us. They got the bungalows and acres of greenery and had their portraits were worshipped by the gullible devotees of patriotism.
They made reservations in schools and colleges for us. In many many other states. But never did they try that we go back to our homes. They have other priorities and ‘love your jihadi neighborhood’ programmes. They get flabbier and flabbier with the passing of each year, sit on sacks of sermons; issue instructions to live simply and follow moral principles delivered by ancestors and kept in documents treated with time-tested preservatives.
They could play with me because my name is Kaul. And not Mr Khan. I saw the trailer to this fabulous movie, which must do good business at the box office.
There was not even a hint that terror is bad and it is worse if it is perpetuated in the name of a religion that means Peace. Peace be upon all its followers and all other the creatures too.
So you make a movie on the humiliation of taking off shoes to a foreign police force which has decided not to allow another 9/11.
The humiliation of taking off the shoes and the urge to show that you are innocent is really too deep. But what about the humiliation of leaving your home and hearth and the world and the relatives and wife and mother and father? And being forced to live in shabby tents, at the mercy of nincompoop leaders encashing your misery and bribe-seeking babus? And seeing your daughters growing up too sudden and finding no place to hide your shame?
No KJ would ever come forward to make a movie, a telling, spine-chilling narration on the celluloid, of five-year-old Seema, who saw her parents and brother being slaughtered by a butcher’s knife in Doda. Because her dad was not Mr Khan. He was one Mr Kaul.
Sorry, Mr Kaul and your entire ilk. I can’t help you.
It’s not fashionable to side with those who are Kauls. And Rainas. And Bhatts. Dismissively called KPs. KPs means Kashmiri Pandits. They are a bunch of communalists. They were the agents of one Mr Jagmohan who planned their exodus so that Khans can be blamed falsely. In fact, a movie can be made on how these KPs conspired their own exile to give a bad name to the loving and affectionate Khan brothers of the valley.
To voice the woes of Kauls is sinful. The right course to get counted in the lists of the Prime Minister’s banquets and the President’s parties is to announce from the roof top: hey, men and ladies, I am Mr Khan.
The biggest apartheid the state observes is to exclude those who cry for Kauls, wear the colours of Ayodhya, love the wisdom of the civilisational heritage, dare to assert as Hindus in a land which is known as Hindustan too and struggle to live with dignity as Kauls. They are out and exiled. You can see any list of honours and invites to summits and late-evening gala parties to toast a new brand. All that the Kauls are allowed is a space at Jantar Mantar: shout, weep and go back to your tents after a tiring demonstration. Mr Kaul, you have got a wrong name.
A dozen KJs would fly to take you atop the glory – posts and gardens of sympathies if you accept to wear a Khan name and love a Sunita, Pranita, Komal or a Kamini. Well, here you have a sweetheart in Mandira. That goes well with the story.
And you pegged the movie plot on autism.
I wept. It was too much. I wept as a father of a son who needed a story as an Indian. Who cares for his autistic son, his relationship with the western world, his love affair with a young sweet something as a human, as someone whose heart goes beyond being a Hindu, a Muslim or a proselytizing Vatican-centric aggressive soul. Not the one who would declare in newspaper interviews: “I think I am an ambassador for Islam”. Shah Rukh is Shah Rukh, not because he is an ambassador for Islam. If that was true, he could have found a room in Deoband. Fine enough. But he became a heartthrob and a famousl star because he is a great actor. He owes everything he has to Indians and not just to Muslims. We love him not because he is some Mr Khan. We love him because he has portrayed the dreams, aspirations, pains, anguish and ups and downs of our daily life. As an Indian. As one of us.
If he wants to use our goodwill and love for strengthening his image as an ambassador for Islam, will we have to think to put up an ambassador for Hindus? That, at least to me, would be unacceptable because I trust everyone: a Khan or a Kaul or a Singh or a Victor. Who represents India represents us all too, including Hindus. My best ambassadorship would be an ambassadorship for the tricolour and not for anything else because I see my Ram and Dharma in that. I don’t think even an Amitabh or a Hritik would ever think in terms Shah Rukh has chosen for himself. But shouldn’t these big, tall, successful Indians who wear Hindu names make a movie on why Kauls were ousted? Why Godhra occurred in the first place? Why nobody, yes, not a single Muslim, comes forward to take up the cause of the exiled and killed and contemptuously marginalized Kauls whereas every Muslim complainant would have essentially a Hindu advocate to take on Hindus as fiercely as he can?
If you are Mr Khan and found dead on the railway tracks, the entire nation would be shaken. And he was also a Rizwan. May be just a coincidence that our Mr Khan in the movie is also a Rizwan.
Rizwan’s death saw the police commissioner punished and cover stories written by missionary writers. But if you are a Sharma or a Kaul and happened to love an Ameena Yusuf in Srinagar, you would soon find your corpse inside the police thana and NONE, not even a small-time local paper would find it worthwhile to waste a column on you. No police constable would be asked to explain how a wrongly detained person was found dead in police custody?
Because the lover found dead inside a police thana was not Mr Khan. No KJ would ever come forward to make a movie on ‘My name is Kaul. And I am terror-struck by Khans’.
Give me back my identity as an Indian, Mr. Khan and I would have no problem even wearing your name and appreciating the tender love of an autistic son.
The writer can be reached at tarun.vijay@gmail.com

The new proselytizers

10 Feb 2009, 1921 hrs IST, Tarun Vijay

Nandita Das created a stir by scripting and directing “Firaaq”. It’s a soul-stirring movie. Nandita, the director and scriptwriter, has tried to be as honest and candid with the celluloid as her deep-rooted commitment to her political ideology. Terrifyingly impressive is the way she uses silence as a tool to etch her message on the viewers’ minds. The actors live the characters they represent. And she admits frankly, “It’s a political movie.”

As a filmmaker and journalist, I would give her full marks for a political statement that has been registered so strongly that this film is going to have better effect than a hundred thousand people’s gathering.

Surely, more than a movie it’s a political statement. She is a person with strong colours of ideology and she has done what she thought she must do. “Firaaq” will certainly get rave reviews in the Indian media. She has already received some international awards, and like “Slumdog Millionaire”, the film has passed the test through “firang” eyes and hence must be all the more acceptable to the “progressive secular, peace loving” people here who have a large, global heart and express their feelings in English.

Apart from its technical qualities of cinematography, editing, direction and script it almost convinced me that barbarism begins with Hindus.

There would be a couple of critical articles or comments, if any, criticizing the movie on ideological points or for the depiction of the events, which may be found completely wrong and devastatingly hateful. These critics may forget that this is a political movie that would sell because the West needs a Jamal or a Mohsin to be rewarded to help it cover the feelings that emerged after 9/11. Having heard Nandita on the movie and seen the clips, I too would have converted to her views if the Godhra incident was not vividly clear in my mind.

I would have turned to take Nandita’s autographs with a sense of admiration if I had not heard the cries of Seema, whose father, mother and brother were slaughtered with a butcher’s knife in Doda, before her eyes, when she was barely seven, in the name of a jihad my secular friends interpret differently. I tried to ask a question: who were those Hindus killed and brutalized during the Gujarat riots? It’s impossible for me to keep mum or justify what happened after Godhra, which saw innocent Muslims being killed so ghastly that no words are enough to express the hurt. The colour of the tears of a mother, whether Hindu or Muslim, is alike. But dividing dead bodies and deciding levels of mourning on the basis of their faith should be as unacceptable as the killings of innocent citizens. Killing truth and colouring facts must also be called a pogrom of civility.

In fact, the secular messengers of the new gospel of hate have turned into aggressive proselytizers setting their worldview as a prerequisite to enter any socio-political or literary regime. They have successfully monopolized the world of various media establishing English as the only vehicle of intellectual discourse and thus keeping the doors to the higher echelons of elite and decision makers shut to those who belong to the Indian-language groups and represent the real ethos of the land. Although to make profits, these very secular groups would sell bhajans and show religious serials while attacking the very spirit of and the protective shields to such traditions in the very next programme. They can’t imagine winning votes with speeches in English or going to the common voter with a wine glass or a beer bottle in their hands. Yet, in their social circuit, they would raise the flag of “pub culture” and look with contempt at a person speaking an Indian language.

Just have a look at the loan forms of the banks. The last paragraph says “those blind, illiterate or signing in a vernacular language must get their signatures attested by someone who knows English”. Can this kind of instruction be tolerated in the UK or the US for their national languages? Even the use of the word “vernacular” for the national languages is a derogatory, colonial hangover. But who cares? They look at Indians as slumdogs, are alien to the threads that weave a fabric called India and treat the “natives” like Kipling’s Ramu. So when a western royal or head of state comes, he is made to cuddle a slum child with a running nose or taken to an orphanage for a photo op to show western compassion for the unprivileged. An Indian Prime Minister is never asked to give alms to the homeless sleeping on the stairs of St James in London or offer grants to an NGO in New York working for the victims of child abuse or teen mothers. Compassion must remain a virtue of the rich and powerful.

It is this English-speaking elite that determines what India must be reading or thinking or how Hindus must be behaving. They read about Hindus through Oxford or Cambridge publishers and show the temerity to sermonize those Hindus who have imbibed their dharma in their genes and lived every bit of it, making Kumbh melas possible and taking dips in the Ganga on the chilling mornings of Kartik and Magh. The secular proselytizer visits Kumbh, not as a devotee but as a photographer to take pictures of bathing Hindu women and sadhus using mobile phones, as if being sadhus they ought to live as cavemen. The pictures they wire to press agencies essentially depict the weird, intoxicated, obscene and the unacceptable face of uncivilized Hindus to the west.

They don’t know a bit about our faith, or what Magh, Amavasya or Saptami means. They take Sanskrit degrees in English and tell us, what’s the use of such knowledge in today’s world? To be futuristic means denouncing all that you have preserved since ages. That’s an alienated crowd of people with an accent, detached from the Indian reality.

They tell us, you bad guys, you demolished our Babri. Yet, not a single political party can dare to promise in its election manifesto that if it is voted to power, it would rebuild Babri over the present makeshift temple of Ram in Ayodhya. Their influence on the Indian masses is hardly worth noticing, yet their control on the media and political power centres makes them important. Their intellectual terror is so overpowering that today most of the national parties in India execute their proceedings in English. Poor and often unauthorized translations are dished out in Hindi and other Indian languages. The language, idiom and attitude of this “secular” English-speaking elite, controlling the media, advertising and governance remain alien to the indigenous fragrances which they dismiss as folk or ethnic contours, only to be enjoyed in a Suraj Kund mela.

The secular code is: abuse and misrepresent the facts about the opponents, use a pub incident in Mangalore more importantly than the anguish and pains of the soldiers demonstrating at Jantar Mantar, turn every news desk and edit control station into Godhra, throttling the other view point.

One isolated incident of the Hindu right would become a globally circulated representative of the Hindu intolerance and terrorism. None of us accepted the way Mangalore happened. Who cares whether Valentine’s day is celebrated or not. If someone says to me “Happy Valentine’s Day”, I will just smile and say “same to you”. That’s it. Those who find it a nice way to feel joy must be free to do so. But why I must say “yes, Valentine’s Day is the biggest symbol of love, amity and happiness” and feel elated seeing obscenities on the streets to prove I am an educated modern person?

To each one, his own. I must be ready to accept every happy occasion of any colour or faith or stream to smile and send compliments, but should it become mandatory as a fatwa?

But my questions to those who use incidents like Gujarat riots for awards and rubbing salt on Hindu wounds was: why forget Godhra and Doda and Anantnag and Kishtwar? In the case of Kashmiri Hindus, the “seculars” won’t like to earn displeasure of the jihadis.

I think it’s self-defeating to crib about such situations. If you feel injustice has been done, prepare to counter the wrongs through legitimate instruments.

Nandita did what she felt was right and did it quite courageously without bothering what the other side would feel. What did you do to present Doda or Godhra to the world? Who stopped any other Indian to make a movie on the pains and sorrows of Seema or to document the desecration of temples in Kashmir and record the woes of Hindus who had to pass through weird massacres like the one we saw at Wandhama?

The author is the Director, Dr Syamaprasad Mookerjee Research Foundation.
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Columnists/Tarun-Vijay-The-new-proselytizers/articleshow/4107647.cms