In Valley, It's OK To Slam Govt But Not Separatists8 July 2011
Srinagar: 'When freedom of speech is subjected to strangulation...' goes M C Kash's rap song, 'I protest'. Written at the height of last summer's protests, the rapper captured the imagination of the youth in Kashmir. Early this week, he performed before some 600 young boys and girls in Srinagar. But there's a catch: Kash rapped about freedom of speech under the guard of the same cops he has spent two years criticizing. A couple of weeks ago, local newspapers carried advertisements about a music show featuring young Kashmiri singers to be held at Kashmir University. The show was organized by students of the management school to support a local orphanage. The response was good and some 600 tickets sold. Then came the shocker. With days to go, the show was cancelled. Why? Because a section of students protested. 'Music is haraam,' they said, and un-Islamic. The visible platform for these protests was Facebook. Hundreds of posts abused and threatened the organizers. 'If music shows are OK, then what's wrong with prostitution?' said one. 'It's our farz to stop these acts. They corrupt our society,' said another. In no time, an entire Facebook page against the show came up. These rants seem to have had a direct impact. According to sources, the organizers were summoned before the director of the management school and forced to write an application cancelling the event. 'Let's not be outlaws,' he is reported to have told the organizers. The word spread like wildfire throughout Srinagar, and yet not a single newspaper reported it. They didn't want to be outlaws either. The harried organizers met the police and finally the music show shifted to a government-run convention centre. This is not an isolated incident about a small music show; this is the culmination of a campaign that's picked up speed in the past few months. The man leading it, as always, is the guardian of Kashmir's morality, Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani. For two months now, Geelani has spoken publicly about how corrupt Kashmir has become. His pet peeves are mobile phones, co-ed schools and western culture. Mobile phones make 'Kashmiri girls dishonorable. If parents have any shame, they should throw the phones into the Jhelum,' Geelani once said. Then, co-ed schools are dangerous because 'boys and girls studying together is like putting fire and hay together. The hay will burn to ashes.' All this, Geelani said, is part of the India's plan to destroy Kashmir. 'They want them to turn into alcoholics; they want to destroy Islam.' Not one voice rises against this diatribe. Last Sunday, a Srinagar school organised a picnic for its students near Anantnag. Some 300 boys and girls from Class V to X spent the day on a meadow. The morning was spent with children playing cricket and splashing water on each other. In the afternoon, they had just sat down to eat, when a delegation appeared from the next village. 'They just walked up to the principle and started abusing him, calling him a traitor, immoral, of spoiling Kashmiri children by allowing boys and girls to mix. Not one teacher dared speak a word. They just sat and heard quietly,' said a teacher present there. What about the Hurriyat moderates, the darlings of TV studios and conferences in Delhi? Who talk about the secular nature of the Kashmir struggle? Most have been silent or, true to their past behaviour, meekly followed the lead set by Geelani. The Kashmiri youth live very different lives from their counterparts anywhere in the world. Since 1990, not a single cinema hall has functioned in the state. That is why the irony: scores of films made about Kashmir have never been shown here. Last week, a storyteller finally got around to showing his film in Srinagar after more than a year of travelling the world. The screening was in a local cafe and watched by around 100 people. No films, no music and who knows a ban on mobile phones for girls next?