Way to protest!

Going beyond the usual mode of protest

Ajaz A Baba
Srinagar, Publish Date: Jan 12 2019 11:05PM | Updated Date: Jan 12 2019 11:05PM
Way to protest!Representational pic

It is common knowledge that in Kashmir the sole and standard manner of protest is to shut down all business establishment, halt all forms of transport and restrict ourselves to our homes in a gesture which is known by various terms like lockdown, bandh, civil curfew etc. but most commonly as Hartal. Since there is usually a lot to protest against in this part of the world Hartals are pretty common and the word has become so much a part of our conversation that I am sure that an average man uses this word at least once every day! We as a people have developed a typical love-hate relationship with this word and what all it stands for. We yearn for a hartal break when normal days seem to stretch endlessly which of course is rare and we yearn for a break from hartals when the hartals seem to stretch endlessly. It is no coincidence that most of the discussions about hartals happen on hartal days only because these provide both time as well opportunity for discussions. Now of course some sensitive souls may find it similar to the colloquial saying about poking holes in the very plate that one is eating from but this is as it is.

So it was one of these hartal days and I was sitting in this obscure teashop in one of the by-lanes of Srinagar which though it observes the hartal with full fervor by downing its shutters allows access to ‘regulars’ through a side door. The teashop was filled with regulars and cigarette smoke and after sundry discussions the focus turned towards hartals. There was an almost unanimous consensus that other modes of protest should be explored with only a few disagreements. However when it came to actually suggesting the alternate modes of protest there were few coherent responses till this young man spoke up.

“Actually we are a very narrow minded people,” this rather effeminate looking youth sitting on the opposite seat said after clearing his throat noisily. “We have this habit of generating tensions about things without going into the intentions behind the whole exercise. I know it because I have been a victim myself. Otherwise novel modes of protest definitely exist!”

“It looks like you have tried some novel mode of protest yourself?” I encouraged the fellow having always believed in encouraging the youth.

“Of course!” he said, nodding his head enthusiastically and then continued with a messianic zeal. “You see we had formed this club of sorts to highlight people’s problems. Like you know there are people who cannot afford to wear proper clothes. You can see their kids running around naked. Some days back our club decided to highlight the problems of this class of people.”

“I would have thought food is a far bigger problem. People not having enough to eat you know!” I expressed my opinion.

“I agree! You are right! But how to demonstrate solidarity with this fact? It won’t show! I mean you might go about parading and demonstrating on an empty stomach but how will people know that you are hungry?! You might be lying! Or for that matter you might be accused of lying even if you are not!”

I could see the logic of his argument.

“That’s why we decided to demonstrate on the streets to bring people’s attention towards the plight of the poor and the downtrodden especially focusing on the fact that these fellows can’t afford proper clothes even!” he continued.

“A very noble sentiment indeed! So did you get around to doing anything about it?”

“That’s the tragedy! We couldn’t! And all because of these narrow minded people who unnecessarily generate tensions against good intentions and all that!”

“Why? What happened?!” I asked.

“We had proposed a march through the city centre.”

“So what stopped you?”

“You see there were these girls who were a part of our club and when their families came to know that they were going to participate in this demonstration in the nude and all that…”

“In the nude did you say?!” Surely I must have heard wrong.

“What else do you expect! If you are showing solidarity with poor people who cannot afford to wear clothes you can’t do that with your clothes on. That would be hypocrisy! We were all going to parade in the nude.” 

Pretty cool logic you will agree. I had to concede that he had a point.

He sighed and continued, “Well as I was telling you we were all set to parade but these spirited young ladies of our club were locked up by their parents! Typical primitive behaviour! And when we went to ‘rescue’ them they set the police on us! Even our parents would not support us. I got a beating from my father! Why this is a common way to demonstrate in the West! You can see the results for yourself! How they have broken away from poverty and live a life of plenty! I say if we continue like this we will never prosper!”

“With our clothes on you mean?” I sought to clarify things.

“Uh…uh!” he faltered. “Look at the West…” He continued rather lamely and then trailed off as if he had run out of gas all of a sudden.

Say what you will but I am always ready to accommodate the ‘modern’ viewpoint. Since this conversation I have been trying to look up…I mean look upon… miniskirts with a new found respect. Who knows maybe the idea behind wearing skimpy clothes is all about sharing the fabric!

(Truth is mostly unpalatable…but truth cannot be ignored! Here we serve the truth, seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of sauce (iness!). You can record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any, at snp_ajazbaba@yahoo.com)


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