Lazy criticism brooks no virtue

By Mohammad Salim


In the early 80s, when the local Doordarshan was admired for some meaningful programmes, I remember a single-episode drama Tijaaratuk Aaasaan Tareeqe (easy method of doing business) as one of the last remnants of sensibility after which the broadcasting agency lost to an endless era of propaganda.
In the drama a corrupt and mediocre education inspector visits a school where, when unable to point out any shortcoming in the system of instruction, he complains that a certain old and experienced mathematics teacher doesn’t know the aasaan tareeqe, a very simple formula/easy method, to solve a question related to business math.
This complaint unsettles the ever-polite teacher—who has always humbly considered himself a student and an eternal learner—so much that, in the entire drama, he feels embarrassed about being unaware of such a formula. He seeks a meeting with the inspector to sincerely learn from the latter that “simple formula” which he hasn’t known all along in his teaching career.
With this painful curiosity, the teacher follows and seeks him in all the possible places for several years but the now-paranoid inspector constantly avoids him on one or the other pretext. Then, the teacher learns that the inspector has been sent to jail on corruption charges.
He believes that now was the perfect time to meet the inspector face to face and learn that “easy formula” from him and benefit his students. But when, in the climax of the drama, he is able to meet the imprisoned, remorseful inspector, the latter admits that there was no such easy formula or any simple method to solve that question the old teacher had been writing on the blackboard on that day. In order to create an impression that he knew more than others, the inspector says he had lied. This revelation disturbs the teacher. He leaves the jail in an ambivalent state of mind—disillusioned but also sceptical.
The drama aptly demonstrates the mental gymnastics of a few newspaper columnists and academics in Kashmir who believe that if resistance leaders become intellectuals, the resistance would automatically become effective.
There might be some truth to the assertions that the leadership has no strategic and diplomatic outlook. However, it becomes important to ponder why it is so.
Those who denigrate the resistance leadership have seldom personally suffered as much as these leaders or the common people on the street who respect the leadership despite certain deficiencies in them. The censure comes mostly from personal exhaustion rather than from sincere concern. Never have these smug columnists in their complacent capacities created any pedagogical liaison with the resistance but only when they get fed up with strikes and restrictions inside their homes, they begin to blabber that “Hurriyat is in a stalemate”. From the tone of their irritable incoherence, we get the impression that they want to tell the resistance leaders: “don’t you know there is an aasaan tareeqa, why can’t you see it”. The columnist/academic would have spelled it out had he/she been aware of it.
An intellectually bankrupt academic complains about the lack of intellect in a leader—this is the height of hypocritical farce.
One wonders how they single out the resistance leaders when themselves they have only improved backwards.
Alas, whenever we begin to speak truth to power and look behind ourselves for support and solidarity, we begin to find some people becoming ‘realistic’ or exhausted, and withdrawing.
Patience is as important as all the practices of resistance put together. In other words, patience is the resistance itself. Recall, it took India two hundred years to be free from the British rule. Didn’t it?
Leadership is a reflection of the people it represents. Leaders emerge from the people and automatically reflect aspirations in proportion to the followers’ desires and commensurate to their abilities and capacities. It’s no less than a miracle to see a leader sincerely committed to a moral political position for most of his life.
We also have seen some leaders who were intellectually more efficient or articulate but also more slippery and deceptive at the same time. Determination solely is wisely much above an intellectual move of a shrewd, fickle ‘leader’ easily tempted by power. Imagine someone who is suffering from a severe renal problem and lodged in jail for the past one and a half months in complete isolation. If he is not exhausted, why are we?
The relation between the resistance and the state it is resisting is that of a relation between ethical politics and politics of expediency. Practicing ethical politics is always tough, as it is perpetually answerable to its moral core. A politician who would swear on Quran one day and speak preposterous lies the next can claim to be ‘practical’ and ‘pragmatic’.
Resistance politics in Kashmir alone cannot succeed unless it has an organized support from all the sections of the society. Active upper-middle and powerful business classes—whose corresponding educational and financial support is diversely needed to accentuate a political movement—balance the structure of resistance. In addition, we have to ensure that the social agency is also well marshalled.
Why should the residents of the posh localities in Srinagar and other urban areas act as if they have outsourced resistance to the lesser mortals, which gives the state propagandists a handle to call it the ‘disturbance by the 5% of population’.
The only difference between the Indian and the Kashmiri upper-class denials of the Kashmir situation is that the former’s denial is based on sophistry and the latter’s on the disturbance caused to their comfortable lives.
Of course, there always has been a class approach to any freedom struggle everywhere else in the world, but here it is unique. None expects the privileged classes in Kashmir to throw stones but what prevents them from contributing in other ways? Can’t they think beyond a badly-written criticism of a besieged, beleaguered and out-powered resistance leadership?
The writer/academic/intellectual expects the resistance to deliver results overnight even when a resistance leader has hardly been allowed to step out of his room. Even when a handful of people who dare to align themselves with the resistance leadership have been persecuted to the point of numbness. .
Men who earned bread for their families by driving passenger vehicles can be seen selling potatoes, apples or boiled eggs these days. And, interestingly, one finds them more resilient than those who complain of exhaustion or uncertainty all the day. Even the houseboat owners, who were frequently quoted of boasting about bumper tourism, are actually saying that they “long for Aazadi, not tourists”.
This is their honourable contribution. Honourable because they call it tehreek, a word which implies practice. The volunteers who ran hospitals during the uprising never complain about the vision of the leadership. They rush to the demands of the situation. Our confused writer’s contribution always appears in the form of a sterile complaint.
Contrary to the level of oppression suffered in Gaza and Syria, we are, thank God, relatively still far conveniently situated. What united the rich and the poor, the lower and upper in the West Asia was when the water and electric supplies were invariably snapped and sewage was let flow down the main streets and roads.
That can happen here only when India would begin to witness cross-class unity for the resistance; when our academics would cease to be bureaucratic, would stop writing indecipherable blabber in newspapers and would start spending time in meaningful practices on ground. But since there is no “easy method of business”, and since any unity and properly sustained solidarity seem far-fetched in Kashmir, one must, at least, not preach others to do something that one himself/herself cannot. As they say: Don’t shoot your mouth before you speak.

—Mahommad Salim is a former teacher

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