Bashira: Mr Wonderful Flower Man


Bashira always sang to me as often as he spoke in a conventional way. When he came to my houseboat during the production and started singing I knew I had to film him- as a cultural reality and as a great fellow.. not as an object of exploitation or such. I’m still very moved by this genuine and lovely, real man. I hope my video has been seen in the respectful, empathetic way I hoped it would.

John Halpern, Director of the Wonderful Flower Man


Bashira is a famous flowerman found in the Dal, oaring around the lake that is the source of income for thousands of Kashmiris. He presents the situation for a flowerseller one of many components of the Dal socio-economics. Bashira hasn’t studied high school, but his warm interactions with tourists for the last many decades has developed his English. Like many other people who earn from the tourists who have developed their English through interactions. People like Bashira are the ambassadors of Kashmir whose warmth becomes a source of cultural diplomacy with the entire world.

Abdul Ghani Bhat, the wordsmith

Abdul Ghani Bhat, a Persian professor who was dismissed from his job after his anti India activities took prominence in mid eighties. He along with Abdul Qadir Wani, spearheaded the Muslim United Front.

He was one of the founding members of the Hurriyat Conference and was the last chairman of the undivided Hurriyat. He currently heads the Muslim Conference and is part of Hurriyat Conference led by the Mirwaiz.

His way with words is well known, here are a few gems.

“When the prime minister of India announced the unilateral cease-fire, even then I said a unilateral cease-fire is no cease-fire. That can happen only when you win a war. If you don’t win a war and you call a cease-fire it cannot hold” when Indian government announced unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir, 2000.

“Russia broke in a day’s time. It didn’t take years” on how can Kashmiris expect a solution to the dispute overnight.

“You have the Agnis, you have the Trishuls, they have the Hataps, Shaheens and whatnots. So this maddening arms race in India and Pakistan has to be viewed with realism. If you do not, you will not be able to banish the ghosts of the atomic war in the region. We know you cannot afford a war. India cannot now ask Pakistanis to keep off. Because Pakistan is as powerful as India. You cannot afford to fight a war. But, remember, the hatred between the two countries is so deep-rooted that you cannot rule out a war either” on the arms race between India and Pakistan in the name of Kashmir.

“Well, I am not a pessimist. I can see a ray of hope around. In the people’s words, in the people’s thoughts, and even, to an extent, in the people’s deeds. I see a ray of light across the tunnel too. A ray which we shall have to make grow, a ray which we shall have to preserve, a ray which I know will light up. It will brighten our future” on being hopeful of a resolution of Kashmir dispute.

“You are committed to a plebiscite here. Why don’t you do it? Why don’t you punish the people who backed out? You made pledges on the soil of Kashmir, you made pledges on the floor of the Indian Parliament, you made pledges to international forums like the United Nations. You said the people of Jammu and Kashmir are the masters of their fate. That they can express themselves through an impartial plebiscite to be organised by the United Nations. Why don’t you do it?” on Indian betraying its pledges and promises on Kashmir.

“Look, my friend, you are building your case in a vacuum. Unless the UN takes over control of Jammu and Kashmir, neither India nor Pakistan can withdraw. Can they? You tell Pakistan to withdraw! But first things first: The plebiscite administrator was to take over, which he never did. And you still say Pakistanis should withdraw? Why?

If the plebiscite administrator takes over tomorrow and asks Pakistan to withdraw and they don’t, yes, of course, Pakistan is to blame. But you are putting the cart before the horse. This is not acceptable” on Pakistan had to vacate its troops first from Pakistan held Kashmir before plebiscite could’ve taken place.

“If the impression is that there is only one holy cow, Geelani, let the holy cow only move to Pakistan and get things done. Finished!” on Hurriyat being ineffective without Syed Ali Shah Geelani on their proposed visit to Pakistan in 2002.

“I hope and trust that we, the members of the executive, realises the responsibility he is to shoulder, understands the duty he is to discharge, the duty which he owes to his conscience and the people. Therefore, emotionalism, sentimentalism… are probably things we should avoid” on a possibility of a split in Hurriyat Conference

“We will be able to go along with each other. We have to. Because both of us, he who lays his life down and we who fight with arguments, serve the same cause” on meeting with the armed fighters in Azad Kashmir.

“The travel we are undertaking is hazardous. We are not on a pilgrimage, we are not on a visit to see historical places, we are not on a visit to see friends, no” on the visit to Pakistan

“Well, I don’t want to draw lines between what you call hardliners and softliners and extremists and moderates and hawks and doves. Because I have seen with my own eyes doves turning into hawks and hawks becoming doves. In politics, rats marry snakes and bulls chase lizards. Anything can happen in politics. But, remember, the urge for peace is universally accepted as a force of history. You cannot go against it. Nobody can go against it” on the hardliners in the Hurriyat Conference

Kashmir Twitter: A force to be reckoned

Kashmir Tweeple

Ten years of Twitter, a notification that is doing rounds on timelines across the world. It was today when @jack tweeted “just setting up my twttr”, and today billion others have done the same, sometimes inane and sometimes historic.

My Twitter story started seven years ago, a teenager from the downtown Srinagar who had been blogging since the age of 15. It was a time when I was on probably all famous social media platforms. From Friendster to MySpace to once-famous-Orkut, it was fun to interact with people without having to break from introverted self.

In 2009, post the first Ragda in Kashmir, Kashmiris had found themselves pitted against a terrible, biased and full of vitriol Indian media.

Read more

Curious Case of Lunatic Nationalism

“You’re suffering from Lunatic nationalism” words of Sajad Lone to Arnab Goswami, 2010.

Over the past week, India has boiled into a bitter dish of nationalism mixed with pungency and the fight to reclaim democratic space. While the gods in media lead the front in providing certificates of patriotism and treachery in wholesale.

Anniversary of Afzal Guru was held at the Jawahar Lal Nehru University in New Delhi, which led to sloganeering on Kashmir’s freedom struggle and calling the hanging as a judicial murder.

In this environment of hate and intolerance, the Hindu bigots turned into their super villain avatar of uncouth goons. The videos of the slogans surfaced on prime time television (Kashmir bashing being the most sought TRP for media sharks) and all hell broke lose.

Umar Khalid a post doctoral student in JNU, defended Kashmir’s struggle for freedom and called Afzal Guru hanging a murder on national television. That obviously didn’t go well with upholders of imperialist India and supporters of Hindutva Zionism.

Now he’s a wanted terrorist. For some gullible to propaganda, a Kashmiri terrorist (he’s Indian FYI).

He carries a Muslim name, refuses to cower down to brahminic hegemony and has the gall to call spade a spade. He’s being hounded because he called out the Indian occupation of Kashmir, he took on the might of hate in the form of a verbal diarrhea Mr. Arnab Goswami and he stuck to his ground until he went underground.

If Kanhaiya Kumar was beaten up, Umar Khalid would be lynched to death. What the Indian media don’t realise is that they have made him an icon. At least for Kashmiris, he’s what they always have wanted Indians to be.

Today there is a great stress on the taxpayer’s money. That how JNU is a loss for all that money spent on them. But do the Indians question about their taxpayer’s money when it comes to their army raping, massacring, torturing Kashmiris on a massive scale?

Do they bother how their taxpayer’s money is being used to pillage Manipur and it’s people? Do they realise they are actually paying for a genocide?

Though now all this hullabaloo has put Kashmir to the backseat. Now the fight is between the right up against the centre and the left. People stand up for JNU as it’s been made out as a frontier against right wing mob mentality.

But they forget that supporting Umar Khalid is not what he wanted. He wanted Indians to stand up for what is right. For the Kashmiris and look beyond the illusion of national interest. Will the Indians take notice of his ideas? Or will he be just a name on the poster.

Probably out of the habit of balancing act, the appropriation of Kashmir’s freedom anthem Azadi is being made out to be Azadi from casteism and world trade organisation. Hilarious.

Leaving that aside for a moment, the Indians however small in number do stand up for Kashmiris through whatever their perspectives are, be it a leftist ideology or a revolutionary one. But the Pakistanis don’t give a damn about Kashmir. In universities, there are hardly any programmes led by students on Kashmir.

Can a Pakistani student call for Kashmir’s independence? Or has he taken that for granted that the mullahs and government is doing something (god knows what) who cares? That’s a debate for another day.

Meanwhile closer to home, Kashmir University is flooded with campus police and spies. The surveillance is suffocating. The Kashmir University Students Union’s office stands demolished and the organisation banned.

The liberals in India never stood up for those students in Kashmir who are being jailed for upholding the right to self determination.

Crushing the dissent in Kashmir is all good in the name of national interest. But in JNU it is an outrage.

Kashmir commands solidarity not pity or sympathy. If you have the latter, you can keep it to yourselves. We are better off fighting alone.