Friday, 23 January 2015

Mess in domestic life and politics

Why isn’t it easy for our political parties to negotiate to be able to form a stable government in which opposition parties and critics too could largely trust or desist from mudslinging? Even if they do succeed in forming one, isn’t it going to be ever under strain? Aren’t all parties uneasy bedfellows when it comes to sharing power? I am not going to answer these questions – we know them anyway – but  transpose these questions to domestic sphere. Seeing the stalemate in domestic politics of home where only a few family members tied by blood relationships I have no surprises to be shocked by any arrangement that ensues and that have ensued in our history by different permutations and combinations in politics. If we are so divided at family level, if there is difficult to find the undisputed leader or trust in a leader at home level (most of us don’t practically buy the thesis inherited from our tradition that husbands are leaders (qawamoon?), if most mothers-in-law have grudges against daughters-in-law and vice versa, if parents have reasons to be cynical about return of gratitude they deserve from children and children complain that parents don’t really remember when they were at our stage and force their choices on us or some similar complaints of which the list is endless from both sides, if we find conflict on almost every stage from choice of school to choice of mate and career and our homes seem mostly transplanted from hell, how come we expect our leaders who have to “lead” so many people of diverse and conflicting interests to be able to be friends or behave decently. No profession other than politics requires almost daily dose of mudslinging or curses but let us not forget that in our homes we are accustomed to hear choicest and wildest curses or abuses.
Our houses are designed to generate ill-will or conflict because we hardly keep in consideration the rights of God, of neighbour, of environment while adding stories to already too big houses, using material for construction that needlessly harms the environment, discouraging local products that have a history of being pro-environment and cost effective. We advertise our wealth or better our pathologies of ego or narcissism while building houses. We don’t welcome guests or strangers – gone is the tradition when we would go for days if not weeks to our relatives. Friends, we longer invite for nights. We ideally require guests to stay outside in the space of compound or reluctantly let them in and asking him to stay for night if not nights (our tradition requires that for three days even strangers are not asked about whereabouts – they are just served in Mahmaan Khana(Guest Room) we no longer know what it used to be). Are our houses designed for better dealing with winters? Do we ever bother that our neighbour shouldn’t suffer from inferiority complex from our lavish display or raising too big a house he can’t afford? In those houses that in their form don’t recall God but the Devil of Ego and vanity, that are often constructed from misappropriated money (our houses now resemble more and more places not for living but for other purposes and cost so much that almost a mohalla could previously be housed at the same cost) how can good will flourish? In the space that has been created from tears and sighs of many customers including underpaid labourers, no ethics can allow ten fold difference in salaries of professors or officers and labourers–one can grant at best two or three fold difference keeping in consideration special skills of white collared jobs – we have been exploiting, bossing, bullying, how can souls and hearts be at peace?
We are, generally speaking failures in domestic politics. We can’t run a home, keep parents, children and spouse happy, and can’t resist torturing saas or bahu or zaam etc. We are daily engaged in some conflict. We can’t enter into a dialogue with our partner and wish to dictate. We don’t offer food to strangers. We don’t invite neighbours for a lunch or tea. We are disgruntled, abusive, greedy, egotistical, formal. We don’t know how to live happy family lives. And we wonder about rot in our parliament houses or political houses..
http://kashmirreader.com/mess-in-domestic-life-and-politics-32007

Ethics of Reading Faces

What do we owe to victims? Everything, Levinas would say.
Today many flood victims are crying for help and few are left to care or speak for them. Who can say that we care as we should?  Our tradition records that those who could and didn’t care would be thrown into a similar situation and tasted want and lack. The first question is: Are we in any way responsible or guilty for miseries of flood victims? Yes, argue Dostovesky and Levinas. What do we owe to victims? Everything, Levinas would say. Nothing breaks one’s back more than reading Levinas as he shows how little we really care about God in the Other, in neighbours, in strangers. He shows that we can’t even claim to be beginners in the science and practice of ethics. For him, philosophy is ethics and this is where ancient philosophers and world religions meet – philosophy is fundamentally a practice of virtue and not ratiocination or speculation and that explains the notion of prophets as teachers of wisdom (hikmah).
We choose not to see the other face to face. We talk to people including our parents but don’t see in their faces. If we can really encounter a face, we get dissolved in the infinite the other opens up, the infinite demand on our ego the other calls forth. We can’t look down upon, or curse or kill the other if we could read faces – God staring on us from the face of the other. We know hangman and the person to be hanged have to be denied this encounter by covering the face. We often say his face made me dumb and surrender.  For Levinas, “in the human face is found the original ethical code. From a look into the face of the Other we become aware of basic human responsibility and meaning.” Levinas questions our society in which people are depersonalized, in which they move around side by side rather than meet face to face. During our travels, our dealings with others in official capacity, with students, with others we call customers, we don’t really encounter faces. Our eyes don’t really meet; we fail to read the infinite demand made by the face of the other. According to Levinas – and great mystics would agree – ethics is first philosophy, ethics is philosophy and we need not be given sermons to be ethical but just see the face of the other with all humility and openness. The other calls us and one has to respond. “In the access to the face there is certainly also an access to the idea of God.... To my mind the Infinite comes in the signifyingness of the face. The face signifies the Infinite.... When in the presence of the Other, I say, “Here I am!”, this “Here I am!” is the place through which the Infinite enters into language.... The subject who says “Here I am!” testifies to the Infinite.” Labiaka Allahuma Labeika is a cry we have to repeat every time we see any face. In Totality and Infinity, Levinas puts it this way: “The dimension of the divine opens forth from the human face.”  “The sentence in which God comes to be involved in words is not ‘I believe in God’… It is the ‘here I am’ said to the neighbor to whom I am given over, and in which I announce peace, that is, my responsibility for the other.”“The relation with the other will always be offering and gift, never an approach with ‘empty hands’.”
 Levinas, one of the greatest philosophers of  the modern western world, is a must read for those who want to understand why the Prophet of Islam (SAW) identified his mission with perfection of ethics and those who want to understand why God is described in Sufism as the Other or non-self – in our neighbor, friend, parent and stranger. One understands why exchanging a smiling look at the face of the parents earns huge reward in Islam. He also convincingly shows the truth of Dostovesky’s  Zossima’s reply to an inquirer:  "There is only one means of salvation…take yourself and make yourself responsible for all men’s lives” Dostovesky explains that no sin is isolated, making everyone responsible for their neighbor's sins ( we keep counting the sins of flood victims!). Levinas helps us to understand better the sacred tradition stating God comes to us in the form of a neighbor or beggar etc. implying any person with any want..
I owe today’s piece on Levinas to the gift of calendars from JKYF in which the question has been asked on every page  after highlighting key social and economic problems, especially after floods that we face and calling for action from you and me: “If not you and me, then who?” I was delighted to see creative appropriation of our traditional moral and spiritual resources in J & K Bank calendar. But I was simply moved by that of JK Yateem Foundation. It speaks to our hearts, minds and souls. It asks some hard questions to all of us. The bell tolls for you and me, it makes clear.
The Calendar 2015 sensitizes all the sons about their old parents’ unheard sighs and silent tears from countless occasions of denied love and gratitude and reminds of our obligations towards unammaried girls, widows, orphans and of flood victims.Although the Calendar can’t compare, in creativity and artistic finish, with the one from J & K Bank, but it complements the latter and reminds all of us of our guilt in social ills of our society. It helps us better respond to the call of the other – orphan, widow, flood victim and everyone who needs us word, smile or purse.
Tail Piece: I wonder why calendars can’t be used  to promote awareness about cultural heritage –Why can’t cultural academy prepare calendars and publish selections from the best poetry of the year on its leaves to encourage new poets? Why the Cultural Wing of Directorate can’t choose best poetry for recitation in morning prayers  in schools and every year change this to introduce great poetry local and international to new generation? Why can’t all government departments be required to issue calendars highlighting their work, schemes and message for interested people? We don’t know even names of some departments. Had the Flood and Irrigation Department done this people would have been better prepared for floods or kept middlemen selling land in more vulnerable areas out of business. We have a great heritage to showcase, plethora of problems to highlight, some well meaning NGOs, trusts to better know about, writers who needs better introduction, immense pain to broadcast to world community, local heroes of rescue and rehabilitation work to garland. Calendars creatively prepared can be of help in all these endeavors.
http://greaterkashmir.com/news/2015/Jan/22/ethics-of-reading-faces-32.asp

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Losing language, losing culture

Political stalemate today after fractured mandate and enormous contradictions in our political culture – I wonder if we have any today – are in one sense traceable to loss of culture. And this loss of culture follows disregard or atrophy of indigenous and cultural languages we inherited.
Cognitive psychology informs us that we learn in our mother tongue, that our mind needs to translate in mother tongue and then cognizes whatever it is taught in other languages. What a tragedy if our minds are confused in which language to translate as it is through an odd mixture of non-classical Urdu, Hinglish and parts of Kashmiri that we are initiated into the world of culture.
 Some of our best na’ats, munajaat, prayers are in Persian and Kashmiri. It means we are evolving into a monstrosity that can’t even pray properly. From both Arabic and Sanskrit – the languages of scriptures – we are already weaned away without even tasting them. It means our linguistic unconscious is quite impoverished to be able to dream dreams that our ancestors fed on sacred languages dreamt. Imported minds, hybrid souls, not aware of multiple signification of traditional dress – do we know that even turns of a turban and pattern on carpets or vases or wood we use in traditional buildings are connected to our background religion and metaphysics? A community or culture that doesn’t care that its students are not taught sciences at elementary level at least in its mother tongue has no right to complain why it is not producing many intellectuals or any Nobel laureates. Here common people are not even aware of world famous school of Buddhist philosophy that developed here or our unique gift to the world of new full-fledged philosophical school – Kashmir Saivism ?
UNESCO has the mandate to promote culture. How sad that we haven’t been able to secure for our language special privileges and couldn’t get projects on truly comprehensive encyclopaedic dictionaries on the pattern of Encyclopaedia Americana or Britannica (we have both Kashmiri Encyclopaedia and dictionary but how comprehensive they are is not hard to see for anyone who is aware of current standards of scholarship and content of regional encyclopaedias prepared in the developed world) sanctioned so far. Our best writers suffer for want of few thousand rupees to publish their writings. Even dictionary of Kashmiri crafts has not been forthcoming. A glorious culture is almost on the brink of oblivion as new generation finds the script used for writing Kashmiri daunting and is not, in this globalization of homogenization of cultures and imperialism of certain languages like English, ready to engage with either Kashmiri language or its “obsolete” and “arcane” culture.
Poverty or decadence in our sense of culture has affected all classes of people. Even most of our professors or secretaries who constitute cream of society can’t read native languages. For whom do our writers write in native languages? Poets are reluctant to introduce themselves as poets. So are painters. So are professionals of some traditional art forms. Sufi poets that we are proud of have been almost written off from our cultural consciousness.  How many from new generation know either the birth place or the shrine of Shams Fiqir or Naimi Saeb or Ahmed Batawer or can explain, even in a cursory fashion, any of their well known verses? I wonder how come we talk of culture in a land of Shah-i-Hamdan and Budshah where people are ignorant of indigenous/Islamic architectural principles that traditionally people took care of before making their houses. They don’t know, for instance, open space inside houses and separate guest room that once characterized houses built in a Muslim culture. Our leaders don’t get tired telling us about the integral unity of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh but are they aware of underlying cultural unity of three regions? Can we ask them what unites Alchi Gompa or Shanti Stupa or Thiksey monastery with Jammu, the city of temples and the Valley of Shrines in terms of underlying principles of architecture and symbolism?
Reshiwaer our elders call our land and I was wondering how many Rishis we know. Our history books mention such Reshis as heirs of 5000 years old history and arguably much older culture, even our key questions regarding culture and identity are a matter of debate.
What a tragedy is that we can no longer claim to possess certain cultural treasures we could claim few decades back. We have lost Ladakh’s world famous traditional culture to modernization. We have lost so many small and big water bodies that one need not to count them. We have lost the culture that respected environment, that revered Rishis who didn’t cut even a twig for fun, that revered springs and greeted water bodies. Losing culture, we lose values and meaning of life and sense of spirit. We disintegrate. And signs of this disintegration are for all to see.
http://kashmirreader.com/losing-language-losing-culture-31299

Readings on Muslim Fundamentalism

All ideologies are exclusive and could lead to violently excluding the right to disagree. Islam is not an ideology but fundamentalism is.

Fundamentalism doesn’t know, as Wahidudin Khan often emphasizes, that we live in a different world, that we no longer understand the language of legalism that uses fatwas instead of communicative dialogue, that sectarianism is against both spiritual humanism and basic ethos of a globalized world.
All ideologies are exclusive and could lead to violently excluding the right to disagree. Islam is not an ideology but fundamentalism is. It is vain to appropriate such terms as fundamentalism  (see this in some popular preachers) and give it an Islamic dress as implying firm belief in fundamentals of religion. Historically literalism has been both exclusive and violent. In the history of Islam exclusivist ideological battles have given us some heinous wars and killings and we can trace them to Kharjite mind set if not even farther in the past. And the battle was pitched against one of the greatest sons of Islam, Hazrat Ali(a.s).
Muslim fundamentalism (to which Peshawar has been ostensibly attributed) has been a subject of many works, mostly by Orientalists and certain modernists. I think this is well known. But it has been thoroughly studied and questioned from what is little known perspective of traditional Islam. I am more interested in this approach as it can’t be accused of using imported western methodology or assumptions or prejudices against fundamentalism. It can’t be accused of inauthenticity or diluting Islam’s letter and spirit. This traditional perspective situates itself in the Quran and the Sunnah, launches a strong critique of modernism and from its critique of modernism it is able to critique fundamentalism as a pseudo-tradition that appropriates certain modernist ideas like ideology, political salvationism, utopianism, idea of progress, Enlightenment narrative of man vs. nature and embracing of technological culture, ignorance of metaphysical, mystical, philosophical and artistic aspects of Islamic tradition, a very shallow interpretation that is neither aware of depths of Islam nor of key thinkers that have questioned modernity and almost everything that goes with it. This fundamentalism is only a few decades old, it can’t be identified with the position of revered Ulama belonging to different traditionally recognized schools. Nasr’s Traditional Islam in the Modern World is one such work that analyzes and faults fundamentalism from integral traditional perspective rooted in the Quran and Sunnah.
What the various movements described as 'fundamentalist' have in common, as Nasr points out, is a cultural and religious frustration before the onslaught of Western culture and the desire to reassert themselves in the name of  Islam….in trying to achieve their ends some have had recourse to revolutionary jargon drawn from the West, others to a puritanical and rationalistic interpretation of Islam which would do away with the whole Islamic intellectual and spiritual tradition in the name of a primordial purity no longer attainable.”  Against “the peace, tranquility, harmony, and objectivity which have usually charaeterized authentic manifestations of Islam in the beginning” it is “hatred, a sense of revenge, constant agitation and blind fury” that have come to characterize fundamentalists.
 Fundamentalism doesn’t understand that events in early Islamic history  and reports in texts can’t be taken in isolation from the vast corpus of literature that has grown around them to put them in perspective. In fact the whole discourse of what has been called political Islam, of jihad, of acid attacks against “indecently” dressed women and hundreds of fatwas on a host of issues that range from disallowing television or mike or pantaloons and almost all forms of artistic expression is premised on certain hermeneutical assumptions – that can be and have been dismissed by great number of traditional scholars – that legalist literalist ahistorical fundamentalism upholds.
We need to understand a few points about fundamentalism against the backdrop of traditional Islam. I can’t list them all but today only focus on key point viz. literalism.  Fundamentalism is literalist and assumes that literal meaning is the absolute or final meaning. It has not heard of tawil employed by great masters in Islamic tradition. It has not heard of analogical, anagogical and other such categories employed by traditional authorities. It has not heard of symbolism and thus becomes hostage to indefensibly dry legalism and intellectually myopic and spiritually suffocating narrative that can never attract the best minds. It writes off Sufism and thus throws away all the giants of Islamic spirituality from Rabia Basri to Jafir-i- Sadiq to Ghazzali to Rumi to Hazrat Abdul Qadir Jeelani to Ibn Arabi to Sirhindhi to Shah Waliullah to Shaikh Alawi. Even the fact that Ibn Taymiyyah  was initiated in Qadri order and the import of penetrating studies of Ibn Hazm and like minded scholars on spiritual aspect of Islam is ignored. It rejects key dimension of personalities of such stalwarts as Iqbal and Shariati who were deeply influenced by Sufism. It would dismiss Deoband and Berelvi school’s debt to such figures as Ibn Arabi and  their  commitment to Sufism. Fundamentalists have no room for philosophy and thus many great names Muslims today are proud of would be disowned. Rejecting philosophy in the name of simple creed would mean dawah work is restricted to those who have not heard of philosophy and let us not forget that modern  mind is shaped by philosophy and from literary criticism to social sciences or humanities philosophy is everywhere. Fundamentalism has not heard of such epoch making thinkers as Wittgenstein and Derrida or linguistic and deconstructive turns in modern understanding of scriptural text and thus it can’t write a tafseer that addresses modern or postmodern audience.  Fundamentalism has not understood contemporary social or political thought and that is why it indulges in strange contradictions like embracing democratic and other ideological thought currents while rejecting medieval Muslim thinkers’ political thought that itself can’t be understood except in reference to ancient or traditional thought and culture. It also has no hesitation in indulging in violence against what it construes as ideological other.
Fundamentalism asserts, and doesn’t argue. It seems to advocate certain rational pleas but they are simply opinions that we can contest. That is why reading Plato is so important. Plato asks his interlocutors questions on what they uphold and refuses to give his view. He questions views others uphold. Now can fundamentalism entertain thorough questioning of its position  without issuing fatwas against the interlocutor? Let us have dialogue and we can solve the problems. And in this dialogue we would have giants of Islamic tradition sharing their understanding rather than debating to win their arguments. Let us note none knows the Truth. All of us can only claim partial truths to our views. The Truth – the Absolute – transcends all views, all beliefs, all philosophical constructions. We receive truth to the extent we rise above personal prejudices, conditionings, ego traps.
Fundamentalists stick to a scriptural literalism against which common sense and reason and verified discoveries in science have scores of objections. Even our primary class students can argue against literalist view. It is esotericism/metaphysics based on illumined reason or intellect that makes literal truth comprehensible.
Fundamentalism is a tendency to absolutize one’s creed (as distinguished from faith that is individual existential discovery or commitment) or community, to act as God’s advocate, to judge where we are first required to understand, to reduce religion or science to ideology, to commit oneself to a particular interpretation and call it the Only Interpretation.
http://greaterkashmir.com/news/2015/Jan/15/readings-on-muslim-fundamentalism-24.asp

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Elections and Politics in Kashmir: A Deconstructive Reading

John Derrida is considered one of the chief architects of postmodernist worldview. We are living, willy-nilly, in the postmodern age. And one of the chief characteristics of this is incredulity toward ideologies, especially those ideologies that make big claims. Deconstruction that Derrida advocated consists in taking nothing on face value, in noticing the gaps and absences and contradictions in the terms in which an argument or claim is made. It teaches us valuing difference and suspecting totalitarianism, fundamentalism and all such discourses that speak in the name of God/Truth/Future/Utopia/Justice. Derrida said that Justice can never be done in absolute terms and all one can do is to approximate it and ruthlessly questions all judgments, all claims of justice from authorities. Deconstruction deconstructs all constructions imposed on people through sheer power or force or propaganda. We need the language, if not the methodology, of deconstruction to present truth to power, to show our reservations regarding whatever is claimed, to puncture rationalisations of hidden power games. If we take note of Derrida, we couldn’t be carried away by ideological rhetoric presented as a rational argument.
Both before and after the elections I recalled Derrida and Foucault and their numerous admirers. In light of insights provided by them one can post-mortem the rhetoric, the slogans, the clichés, the promises, the manifestos of all the parties that are today busy in rationalising their choices or compulsions. With Derrida let us deconstruct a couple of key statements made by all the parties.
All promised development. All won votes because of hate against other contesters and in the name of excluding major players in the game they knew they can’t keep at bay.
A deconstructive reading of the idea of development is presented by dozens of internationally reputed scholars and critics of development discourse anthologized for instance in enormously powerful and readable development dictionary edited by Wolfgang Sachs. There is neither any knowledge divorced from power relations, nor possibility of peace nor sustainable development in a unipolar world governed by the supramoral ecocidal logic of corporate globalisation. The true story of exploiting financial structures, of neo-colonialist banking masquerading as aids/loans, of dissolution of gold standard, of inflation, of recessions, of remote controlled speculative businesses of markets especially stock markets, imposed myths of national interest and all pervasive war machinery eating up public money for imaginary and manufactured security threats is largely hidden from public gaze. Current development model involving industrialization and technologization is also a great myth that has been perpetuated and preached to the third world. It has resulted in virtual slavery of the latter and destruction of the environment and put them at the mercy of ill understood market forces. It is no wonder that peace is absent. Capitalist economy that has been successfully able to globalize itself thanks to opening up of “closed” economies such as Indian economy has resulted in unappreciated damages to economic, social and moral fabric of society. Capitalism necessarily breeds conflict, destroys environment, enslaves minds and souls to body, promises satisfactions that can’t be satisfying because man is created to be satisfied by nothing short of God or Absolute (Alla bizikrillahi tatma innal quloob~Holy Quran). Development ideology is an invitation to slavery.
It was conceived and applied in Truman regime by America to export its own model to sustain its power over the world and it has been so successful that today every leader from Narendra Modi to Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to Omar Abdullah swear in the name of vikas or development and people buy the slogan least suspecting murky genesis of the idea that clearly shows it as a conspiracy against man and his posterity in general and developing world in particular. Every term used by pro-development ideological discourse like standard of life, poverty, GDP has been ruthlessly deconstructed in the above mentioned work. One needs to read it to be shocked and enlightened.  We should ask why no radical and imaginative steps have been taken to reorient economy, decentralize power and strengthen community centric enterprises as against rampant individualism which has destroyed sanctity of relations and bred unemployment and alienation.
Democracy denied as rule by the people for the people by the people is easily deconstructable as rule by parties/classes against majority of people through bureaucracy and judiciary linked to interests of class or capital. That is why any alliance that we see getting formed cheating mandate, contradicting own pre-election standpoint, parasitic on people’s long term interests of all the regions, continuing Servant-Lord or Seggar-Giver relationship between theoretical equals. Power dictates. Money makes the mare go. People suffer. People don’t count. The show continues. Tamasha dikha kae madari gaeya.
http://kashmirreader.com/elections-and-politics-in-kashmir-a-deconstructive-reading-30656

Friday, 2 January 2015

Conscience and Power

People don’t want a particular alliance but their leaders or representatives want or are compelled to accept some arrangement. Kashmiris feel they will be sold cheap and in their name, there will be tons of justifications for any action taken by those who chose to rule. Let us note how easy it has been to trivialize people’s mandate. How shocking we find yesterday’s arch rivals hugging one another. How shameful to invent ever new excuses for consenting to this or that action that previously few weeks back parties openly opposed. Even God is bound by the principle of non-contradiction as far as He operates in the world governed by reason and logic. But politicians seem to have license for flaunting even the laws of logic including the law of non-contradiction.
BJP-PDP alliance is not acceptable to vast majority of Jammu and Kashmiri’s voters. So isn’t any other alliance to another large section of voters. But do voter’s wishes matter or mandate matters?  Who should decide? Isn’t the best choice to evolve strong institutional mechanisms for bypassing politicians? Many politicians are not qualified for the job profile they hold. Anyone can get elected. Money makes the mare of politics go.
Many people think Governor’s rule is better because you are then governed by a better educated, reasonable, rules respecting bureaucracy. You need not be affiliated with any party. You need not to prove your loyalty or your claim that you have voted for the representative of your area or the ruling party. Governor’s rule appears less costly for people. What for do we need representatives? Sadak, bijli aur makaan aur rozgaar, as they say. But who really knows the business, arranges the funds, oversees the operations and does almost everything that needs to be done? Bureaucracy. So why we pay so much for electing and caring of representatives? Our honourable members have huge fuel, protocol and other expenses. We don’t need political parties. We don’t need the State, argued Marx when good governance is ensured.
I recall Biblical verse saying that scandals must come out but woe to those through whose hands they come. A Prophetic tradition narrates that the worst people are those who help other people to make their lives better at the expense of their hereafter. We do need, in the current scenario, politicians who listen, above all to these cautionary pronouncements. A calculus of interests, careers is okay but if it conflicts with the irrefutable judgment of conscience, one has lost everything. ‘What does a man gain if he gains the whole world and loses the soul’? So asks the Bible. And when the question is of gaining some political advantage for short term, one can see how enormous the bargain one is engaging in.
Let us fight for strengthening democracy where there would be no threat or chance of betrayal of people’s mandate, of party, of underrepresented people or classes who have no say. Let us fight for laws that allow people to directly participate in determining important decisions. Let us conceive of a mechanism, until a truly Platonic-Farabian state comes, how people can dismiss their elected representatives if they see them betray them. But haven’t politicians succeeded in dividing people so much that they no longer call themselves people but get appropriated in regional vote bank categories. At the end of the day, people chant slogans against their own fellow people.
Tail Piece:

Imagine a world without politicians. It will be far less noisy, far more peaceful, far more efficient, far more. Even politicians are reported to admit this and it needs no rocket science to see how. Politicians have created borders, partitions, regional divides, enmity amongst locals who vote for opposite candidates, communalism, sectarianism, fascism, Nazism and what not. They have dropped atom bombs. They have fought wars, conquered neighbouring territories. They think everything is fair for them. What we need is ultimately not a good government, but no government.
http://kashmirreader.com/conscience-and-power-29998

Friday, 26 December 2014

I PRAISE: Panun Doud Panen Dug

One may have many reservations regarding the poet but the work of art calls for proper appreciation

Rilke, one of the greatest modern poets, has a poem that reads:


THE POET SPEAKS OF PRAISING


Oh speak, poet. what do you do?
I praise.
But the monstrosities and the murderous
days,
how do you endure them, how do you take them?
I praise.
But the anonymous, the nameless
grays,
how, poet. do you still invoke them?
I praise.
What
right have you, in all displays,
in very
mask, to be genuine?
 praise.
And that the stillness and the turbulent sprays
know you like star and storm? 
 
Drawing inspiration from Rilke, I today praise a little known contemporary Kashmiri poet who has struck some deep chords in me, as a token of gratitude for the ordeal that the poet has suffered for conceiving or writing poetry.  A work of art has to be approached first and foremost as a work of art and let us note that some masterpieces of poetry in all traditions have been composed by people whom nobody knows. Seeing myself as a visitor of a City or Castle of Art, I enjoy some art works more than others and one hardly asks in a beautiful museuem about CV of the artist or unknown craftsmen who gave them to us. Believing with the traditionalist critics that every man is a special kind of artist and not that an artist is a special kind of  man, I have been seeking some contemporary pieces of works of art that would be possibly of interest of  some more readers.  Slim works of poetry are less suspect for being worthy of larger attention. Mostly few poems of poets are all that deserve to be preserved for posterity. Rafiq Masoodi’s slim volume captured my attention, so today his work provides me the opportunity to offer my gift of praise. Let it be noted that man is a praising animal and I can’t resist praising.
There are two kinds of people or “critics”: those who focus on beauty and those who focus on ugliness in a given piece of work or in our acquaintances or fellow travelers. I am in the first camp and take my time’s worth in enjoying those glimmerings of beauty.
I recall some great tributes to parents but not to grandparents in Urdu or Kashmiri poetry. The dedication of the poet to the grandparent gives a refreshing opening that recalls Chinese culture’s reverence for the elders. Refreshingly it happens to be a book of tributes. Dedicated to two generations of his family, it has wonderful tribute to Alamdar, to his one time “patron”  G R Bacha, to his Murshid Shafi Sahib and some others that would appear surprising to most readers.
All of us have perhaps been hurt but very few have been able to prove this as blessing in disguise by transforming the experience into poetry. It is hard to believe how such a sensitive poet could engage in protracted prosaic legal battles and reportedly win them as well. While I have enjoyed reading the poet I couldn’t help wondering why he shouldn’t be immensely grateful to those who have hurt him for bringing to surface the hidden poet in him.
Duchiyut illustrates wonderful imagination. Half mystical half pastoral, “Moan hamzaad” is a song of experience that takes us to haunting world of Blake. What a beauty!” Poems such as Lal Daedi,” “Gonahgaar”  “…..?,” “Urbanisation” “Rishti“Moun Chahrer”  may find place in any anthology of  modern Kashmiri poetry. 
We keep judging and backbiting but hardly find time for just enjoying, just praising life. The crux of Holderlin, arguably the greatest German poet, and Heidegger, undoubtedly the greatest German philosopher of the twentieth century, lies in cultivating faculty of praising. Masoodi’s “Wuni ti chi zindagi zindae” recalls mystic appreciation of what Abraham Heschel calls the blessing of just being alive.
The book is perhaps in unique in being a collection devoted to poems instead of ghzaals only and all in free verse besides making some daring new innovation in form as some poems printed on facing pages can be read both separately and jointly.
Poetry is sacrifice, escape from personality. If our poet hints at his inability to transcend this personality when he turns explicit in his statement of being hurt, we may recall of human, all too human, character that we are before being artists.
Kashmir’s present predicament finds voice in many poems. “Gam ti Kabristan” depicts how Kashmir has become a graveyard. A subtle portrait of our collective sins and corruption is “Naeth naen.”
Panun Doud Panen Dug has indeed been transformed into Soan Doud Saen Dug and that shows the success of the work.
The only problem in the book I found with the poet’s preface in which he has filed a wrong affidavit that he is not a poet. We have poets who keep shouting maan na maan ham hae teray shair.
I conclude with a prediction: Some poems of Masooodi will never be out of print and editors of anthologies or text books can’t ignore the poet who has the humility to disown any poetic credentials.
http://greaterkashmir.com/news/2014/Dec/19/i-praise-panun-doud-panen-dug-15.asp

Ethics or Politics: Choosing the Alliance

While I am convinced that current democratic model is corrupt, unworthy of those who want serious change, complicit with money power, impermeable to genuine change from the below or in the favour of the impoverished class and that our choice could only be between two evils, lesser and greater, we are called to question, condemn and hope simultaneously in this knotty scenario that admits of no neat idealistic solutions. While ethics would require shunning the politics altogether and fight using non-political spaces, somehow the question of the political props up. Regardless of the charge of political naivety that raising the question of ethics today may warrant according to many pundits who command the language of power, I think, recalling Faiz, we can’t afford silence,“Ham matayilowh-o-qalm karate rahaegae.”  Let me put, regardless of political correctness, some ethical questions to those who matter politically as today, on this apparently crucial time, Kashmiris are asking a sharp question: Will ethics or politics rule in choosing the alliance? From people’s perspective equations could be fairly simple and there is hardly any need for detailed negotiations.
I ask why is there a need of two regional parties, NC and PDP, playing against each other, sharing almost similar manifesto, making similar promises regarding good governance and safeguarding people’s political and other aspirations? Why not dissolve the two regional parties and agree to form one? The same question could, of course, be asked of Indian national parties, BJP and Congress? Is there any key difference in their manifestoes? Are there fundamentally different commitments to people or promises? The question is we have been taught to accept party politics, absurd games of 44 or winning and losing by a vote and no representation for those who don’t vote or who press NOTA and no representation for vast majority of people who vote for candidates rather than parties or single largest party but not in correct mathematical proportion to add up to magic figure? Are people’s interests kept in consideration or party’s interests? Do people’s interests count or those who fund elections? Do people count in anyway except in playing a game and choosing players that always win their game or seek to win it forgetting people whose destiny is at stake? How come independents matter so much so that they need to be assured good portfolios in coming government? How come we find unconditional support given to some parties even without formally asking for it? Will people’s interests count in taking the decision or shrewd calculus of long-term political gains? Isn’t it very easy to see that party and people’s interest often diverge?

There may be an archaeological question to disallow alliances. It might be asked that one party is a creation of intelligence agencies to dent the regional political space monopolized by the pro-freedom camps. But question could be posed how was the main party born? Isn’t it a subject of heated debate that National Conference was violently wrenched from Muslim Conference and NC has often played a role that is more loyal than the king? How was the current dispute born? Out of democratic process of consultation between “representatives” or out of dictatorial policy of the leader?  Who has the moral superiority to claim?
Now the question that Kashmiris ask to PDP and NC: Will you forget family feud and explain what makes you distinct parties to booty of blood and sweat? Why can’t you, for the sake of people, fight an “intruder”as vast majority of people perceive so? Jammu and Ladakhi people ask a similar question to Congress and BJP.
I think ultimately the question is one of ethics and not politics. And unfortunately, unlike Borges, politicians mostly understand politics better than ethics. Could this time ethics count?
http://kashmirreader.com/ethics-or-politics-choosing-the-alliance-29279

Making Politicians Irrelevant

I don’t understand politics; I understand ethics only___________Borges

The torture of a bad conscience is the hell of a living soul.
__________John Calvin

Hateful to me as are the gates of hell, Is he who, hiding one thing in his heart, Utters another.
_____________Homer

There is no greater hell than to be a prisoner of fear.
_____________Ben Jonson
We understand more politics than ethics. And no wonder we find ourselves in hell. Hell is facing other people you don’t like. Hell is greed, envy, desire, ambition for worldly power. Hell is where love is not. Hell is regret, guilt, heedlessness. Hell is the laughter of the enemies. Hell is feeling unable to act. Hell is a desecrated nature, deserted relationships, distrust, betrayal. Hell is the world under capitalism. Hell is the world today. Hell is Kashmir in search of home, in search of trustworthy leaders, in search of peace.
Our world is hell thanks to the money power. Our politics seems such a stinking affair because of money power. Our people go hither and thither, in search of Hell are girls pining for marriage but none ready to marry them. Hell is prolonged unemployment. Hell is failure to maintain an ethic, satisfy demands of one’s conscience, be oneself, afford to speak truth.

I now ask aren’t we living in a hell created by our own misdeeds. Yes! Our own misdeeds. We fail to cultivate the courage to side with the truth. Sheikh Abdullah couldn’t afford to tell the truth that power (exemplified by Nehru) doesn’t honour truth or demands of the weak. Prof Mujeeb has said the last word on the question of Kashmir vis-à-vis India, “Army doesn’t leave from a territory it has conquered unless driven away from it.” Sheikh Abdullah invited Indian army and that ended his political clout. It was only a matter of time that he would suffer 1953 and later humiliation of accord that clipped his wings and made him a Chief Minister. Our leaders, who surrounded him, could never afford to tell naked truth to the power he exemplified. Many Muslims couldn’t oppose two-nation theory in the name of a truth that they believed delegitimized nationalism. We didn’t listen to Maulana Azad. We failed to cognize the truth that Jinnah was pushed to the wall to seek Pakistan. We disregard the truth that Iqbal rejected nationalism and feudalism and today in Pakistan, created partly in his name, both jingoism and feudalism have been ugly realities.
There is an ideology and there is a truth. For perceptive analysis of this difference we need to use the tools of Marxist and deconstructive approaches in a world where ugly binaries and ideologies.
Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something.
____Thomas A. Edison
Why can’t we make politics irrelevant? How do we tolerate genuine people falling for temptations to power? Our kith and kin, our friends think they can make the difference.
http://kashmirreader.com/making-politicians-irrelevant-28641

Saturday, 13 December 2014

What is missing in Kashmir political discourse?

Perhaps many important questions are missed but a couple of them haunt me and I wonder would they ever be properly discussed.
First is a question of building up spaces outside the current political system.  And the second is cashing on spaces opened up by changing dynamics of politics. There is belated recognition that election boycotts have been counterproductive. Even in early 1990s we could have been politically active and exploiting given spaces for helping people move forward.
Hurriyats have been increasingly criticized for being almost a spent force. And we can’t avoid an impression that fundamental failures in methodology and conception have been made by it. There is no culture of debate in it, no consultation of latest developments in political theory to help it better understand changing political scenario following major changes in the economic and political order after the end of cold war. One could seriously ask if attention had been given to create certain institutions rather than fight abstractions or trade certain slogans. One wonders how come a discourse if foisted on people; how come a leader poses to be a leader who doesn’t care to update himself. Even the most brilliant political scientists keep updating themselves and visionary leaders countercheck their vision against the reality check that such scientists provide. Why has it taken decades to understand that the boycott shouldn’t have been an issue? Why isn’t copy of discussion amongst leaders provided to people? Don’t they debate issues? Don’t they introspect? Do they lack the courage to register their disagreement on policies? How much internal criticism is tolerated? Are intellectuals and professionals of different fields taken seriously? If not, why? Why don’t the leaders face questions on policy publically? Do they lack the guts or the integrity or the courage to face the public?
To incumbent pro-India leaders one would like to ask: How many contradictions are you able to live up with? How do you gather the courage to repeat the discourse that is hackneyed or disowned or discredited even by some of your own party members? Do you still believe that people can take you seriously when you talk of restoring autonomy? Don’t you notice that people have eyes to see and minds to notice contradictions, election posturing, trading of dreams, countless compromises you made to remain in power at the cost of ideology you are committed to in manifesto? Don’t you notice changes in Naya Kashmir document from 30s to 70s you made? You couldn’t give dignity or sense of care to people. You failed on almost every front – retaining J&K Bank, helping Afzal Guru get a fair trial, getting power houses back or denting NHPC hegemony. You increased age of retirement not because you suddenly got convinced of the rationale behind it, because you lost elections. You gave concessions to ReTs whom you had been opposed in practice because you lost elections. You kept silence on major administrative lapses and corruption because you thought you would lose power or coalition partner. You didn’t side with truth but power. You couldn’t get cases against your own people properly investigated. You couldn’t dent rising capitalism as manifested in mushroom growth of costly private schools. You did nothing to change education policy which is suffering from multiple organ failure syndrome? What did you do to better the knowledge economy? What did you do to help agricultural or livestock sector? One could ask scores of such questions.
So what do we propose to do now framed as we are in a discourse of choosing a particular party or carrying forward a political ideology of complicit democracy? Strengthen those spaces that will help people irrespective of who rules them. And keep leaders- pro-Indian and pro-freedom-reminding that you have been largely failing your people.
http://kashmirreader.com/what-is-missing-in-kashmir-political-discourse-28210