Continuing place discourse – Place Identity and Slogans

By Dileep Kumar Kaul

May 2010

dilip kaulConversation gives us an identity. In the process of conversation the idea working in the background is who I am and to whom I am talking. Then come ideas and their communication. Conversation, like all other human activities has a context of place, where the human dialogue occurs. During a conversation the individual cannot escape engagement with the material context of action and interaction, which is place. It is in the place that we and our activities are situated, and it is action and interaction at a place that gives us our place identity. With that we get a conception of self, which in itself cannot be without the effect of place.

But this place identity and the sense of self associated with it cannot be one dimensional. The place itself is made up of more than one meanings which do have their effect on the sense of self. There is a local self that emerges from the sense of the narrowest place i.e. our immediate locality. After place, many more dimensions can be visualized but the most important one that follows is the national self. With these come ecological and religious aspects of the self. In short, the self contains multitudes, and in our conversations all these aspects of self find expression at one point of time or the other.

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Slogans, too, are a part of human dialogue, through which a group communicates with others. During political activities slogans are carefully made so that they give appropriate expression to aims and objectives of a particular group. Religious groups too have their slogans and needless to say that, slogans too, are not devoid of the effect of the place they emerge from. Slogans are narrative devices by which people locate themselves in a particular period of time and a specific place.

Kashmir has seen most creative sloganeering during political campaigns. Kashmiri Pandits have not been good slogan makers; most probably they did not have much political say. Their most common and most often repeated slogan has been ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. This also involves the place, the nation with which they associate themselves and politically they looked towards India. Their local and National selves are very clear; they live is Kashmir which is India and so ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. With this is associated every aspect of  their community self.

But for Kashmiri Muslims place attachment is not so simple. They know that Kashmir is a part of India but their political premise is rejection of India. This constitutes their local and National selves. It has been said in the beginning that context of place is important for the human dialogue to occur. For this, one has to locate the other person in the context, in the place in which the communication is being made. In other words, while we are talking with somebody we are unconsciously assessing his importance, the importance of all aspects of this self, his total identity in that context, in that place and our own conversation automatically adjusts accordingly. Same is true of group to group communication. To understand this we will examine the most powerful and the most creative slogan of Kashmiri Muslims that has left a deep impression on Kashmiri Pandit psyche and, in fact, it was meant for that – to persecute and to torture.

But there is more to it than just this. It is astonishing to say that how just a seven word slogan can express the erosion of place and then reinventing that place as per the dominant religious ideology and making that the basis of place identity. The slogan is, “Asi Gatsi Aasun Pakistaan, Batav Ros tu Batnyav Saan” [We want Pakistan., without Kashmiri Pandits and with Kashmiri Pandit females]. See how Muslims locate themselves. Pakistan is their primary longing and that too without the Kashmiri Pandits. Where are Kashmiri Pandits supposed to go? Obviously to India. But their females will not be allowed our. They will be kept by the Muslims. Here the ideology comes into play. The Kashmiri Pandit community, in this slogan, is getting the treatment a kafir deserves. He is to be killed or exiled but his women are to be kept to give him maximum humiliation. The local self here merges into a national self associated with Pakistan and it is in that context of Pakistan that Kashmiri Pandits and their women are located by Kashmiri Muslims. In this slogan ideology, national self, local self and politics of place are very creatively united. Till now this slogan has not appeared immoral or obscene to any member of Kashmiri Muslim clergy, signaling their approval for such treatment that a kafir deserves. But to their disappointment, Kashmiri Pandits escaped along with their daughters, sisters, mothers and wives.

This slogan has always been used, but another slogan that needs consideration is the one used when Mast Gul, the Pakistani terrorist who laid siege on the shrine of Chrare Shareif and ultimately burnt it down. The slogan was, “Chrar Bani Gari Gari, Mast Gul kati Bani [We can get Chrar again and again, but Mast Gull is a rarity].” Chrar , till then, had been a sacred shrine and all of a sudden it loses its sanctity and Mast Gul becomes more sacred. Chrar was a tradition but is Mast Gul a tradition? 

In 1947 when Pakistani tribals were driven out by Indian Army the Kashmiri Muslims still wanted them to come back and liberate Kashmir. My late uncle was witness to those moments. My father during those days was trapped in Bandipura. Many Kashmiri Pandits have memories of those days. But my uncle narrated a special story. The Kashmiri Muslim women used to sing a wanwun during those days, “Nyuk Nyuk Sheen Pyav Kohan tu Balan, Kabaelye Lalan Kyazi gov Tser [Light snow has fallen on the mountains, why are our dear Kabaelis (Tribals) late?].” Mast Gul is being shown the same kind of reverence after about half a century. This means Kashmir is given a meaning through so called liberators. This is what Kashmir means to them and attains for them the placehood on which they base their place identities. This is the reflection of the place identity in which invaders become sacred because they belong to your religion. Here, the religious entity is made to dominate at the cost of place and Chari Shareif is a non entity in this set up. Mast Gul is a part of the Kashmiri Muslim local self, the traces of which can be clearly seen in the wanwun of 1947 and this was not the end of it. Many other folk songs glorifying so called mujahideen were composed after 1990. a part of one such ‘wanwun’ is,

“Yim hai aesee pandah wuhri yiem katee aayi.

Yiman lajay pofu panuni gofuv manzu hai aayi.

[They (mujahideen) were fifteen years old, where from did they come! They passed through the difficulties of caves O! let their aunts (father’s sisters) sacrifice themselves for these young mujahideen].”

Another part of the song is,

“Yim hai aesee truvah wuhri yiem katee aayi,

yiman lajay maasu panuni gasu mangu hai aayi.

[They (mujahideen) were thirteen years old, where from did they come! They hid themselves in the grass, let there aunts (mother’s sisters) sacrifice themselves for these mujahideen]”

Just see how the whole thing is being imagined. The life of a so called mujahid is finding place in the imagination of the women. In the process of crossing the border or evading the security forces they are hiding themselves in the grass. And all there aunts are prepared to sacrifice themselves for these young mujahideen. How deeply mujahideen are ingrained in the local self shows how does the kashmiri muslim local self express itself. Some folk songs of this period are less poetic and more direct,

“Mujaehid bayo laghov paeri, asya ha chhivu tohi saetyi saeriyey.

[O mujahid brothers, we sacrifice ourselves for you. All of us are with you.]

Can this self vanish so quickly ?Will trusting Kashmiri Muslims be sensible?

Sociologists have distinguished between three senses of ‘insidedness’ to a place, i.e. three different aspects of peoples’ affinity with their place. The first is “Physical insidedness”, which means physical awareness of the environment, the physical details of a place. “Social insidedness” is the second one which means a sense of being a part of the social fabric. Then comes “autobiographic insidedness” which emerges from the interaction with the place through a period of time. The Kashmiri Pandits have been deprived of physical and social insidedness. But autobiographic insidedness is with us. All of us are aware of the troubles we have borne and our stories are not very different from each other.  Our ancestors lived in that Kashmir where people had a longing for Pakistani raiders, we left a Kashmir where meanings of sanctity changed, a shrine was ignored and the person who burnt it down was glorified. This worsening of situation is a part of biographies of all of us.  We share a biography of pain and persecution the truth of which has given us the power to fight back, because the troubles we have borne can never be denied by anybody. It is because of the sense of this truth that we go on with the slogan, “Chon taqdeer Myon taqdeer, Panun Kashmir, Panun Kashmir [The destiny of all of us is Panun Kashmir].”

Panun Kashmir is our place and the ongoing struggle for it has kept our place identity intact. Kashmir has an eternal meaning for us and that meaning will remain there till eternity.

*(The author is a poet and a prolific writer)