Words and Kashmir Protests

Views from Srinagar

Aaliya Ahmed

TURMOIL and tragedies in our daily lives have not been able to snuff out our intellect, presence of mind, coining of slogans in accordance with the situations. All the phases of protests have thrown up new slogans ultimately proving milestones in the long struggle of Kashmiris for their identification. Our sense of humor and loaded satire has no parallel at least in the subcontinent. Our critics have been able to use even famous Bollywood songs to sharp their minds and throw loaded projectiles at the rulers with beautiful one-liners. This is a very interesting case study of different forms of protests and how our sharp minds have supplemented these macabre situations with their innovations by coining new slogans.
Recently, newspaper headlines in bold letters said that Barkiti slogans reverberated in the state assembly as lawmakers from opposition parties while disrupting Governor’s address raised slogans. Sarjan Barkiti is a cleric from south Kashmir belonging to Ummati Islami organization being headed by Mirwaiz Yasir.
Barkiti caught the fancy of youth and women by his high pitch slogans against the use of force by police and paramilitary forces in 2016 unrest. In media he earned names like ‘Azadi Chacha’ and ‘Pied Piper’. He attracted huge crowds during the unrest, making people to resort to sloganeering along with him like ‘bullet pellet na bhai na’. When Opposition NC started disrupting the house, they raised the Barkiti slogans ‘nab bhai na’ invoking criticism from many quarters. Some journalists and civil society members questioned the wisdom of the government on slapping PSA on a clergy man like Sarjan Barkiti for raising mere slogans. They have a point when they say why those lawmakers are not booked who raised the same slogans of Barkiti that too on the floor of the house.
While the court has quashed the PSA of Barkiti, government has rearrested him even after the directions from the court to release him. In entire south Kashmir Maulana Barkiti used to appear suddenly and attract huge crowds which would finally culminate into the charged rallies giving sleepless nights to police and military to nab him. Barkiti slogans was the main twist thrown up by the unrest of 2016 and his slogans na bhi na has become an inspiration for youth to assemble and start marches on the streets of south Kashmir.
All unrests right from 2008 have been instrumental in coining new phrases connected with the demands of the people. Ragda Ragda became the main slogan of year 2008 Amarnath land row and this agitation is still called 2008 Ragda Ragda in local parlance. Separatist leader Masarat Aalam Bhat became the face and symbol of then new phase of public agitation in year 2008 and that unrest could be stopped for months until J&K police arrested him from the outskirts of Srinagar to finally bring curtains down on that unrest.
Post 2008, there has been lot of phases heard in public protests and some of the events finally turned into a chain of events which resulted in 2010 unrest in Kashmir. This phase not only showed defiance by the teenagers of Kashmir but also created lot of challenges for the security grid to combat the enraged youth on the streets of Kashmir. Youth became poster boys of 2010 unrest as some of the newspaper pictures captured youth throwing away their shirts and challenging security forces and police to fire on their bare chests. 124 youth, most of them teenagers, were killed in 2010 unrest and it left a tragic mark in the protest history of Kashmir. In that phase of unrest, youth in order to irritate police and security forces coined lot of provocative slogans but the main slogan remained “Go India Go”. This slogan became the popular byword of 2010 unrest and all the manifestation of protests during that period revolved around this slogan.
In 2016, Maulana Barkiti caught the young minds by his new slogans of na bhai na, and his influence has been seen even on the lawmakers of Jammu and Kashmir while registering a different kind of a protest.
Apart from traditional blame-game between opposition National Conference and ruling PDP-BJP combine, Omar Abdullah and his party made use of Barkiti slogans rather than make any suggestions to the government on how to handle the unrests in future. The tragedy is that political parties have never tried healthy politics and have always used killings in Kashmir only as a handle to beat the ruling party.
The unrest of 2016 has thrown an interesting idea of convergence for political parties in the state as there seems to be no difference of opinion on one point, which is Kashmir issue should be resolved. This unrest has brought to surface strong indication that in future there could be initiation of dialogue between all the political parties to agree on this one point to work together for the resolution of the dispute. Dr Farooq Abdullah has already painted the context for such understanding when he assured joint separatist leadership of Kashmir all support to their struggle for right to self-determination. Chief Minster Mehbooba Mufti has been very local for dialogue with separatists and Pakistan, opening of more routes between two parts of Kashmir, etc. But she will have to translate such statements into reality because she is not only chief minister but coalition partner of BJP.

—Courtesy: Rising Kashmir

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