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Kashmir conflict is breeding artists; Pandit, Rather are latest progeny

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Jun 28: Conflict and art have an abiding relationship, for the former evokes the need to express. Of late, Kashmir has seen this trend grow and as the valley descends into a period of turmoil, art has arisen to record the trauma of populism.
Both fiction and poetry are in demand, and two young writers have come up with their first books recently.
“We wouldn’t get Shahid back, but here’s a young man from the scorching land of Kashmir speaking to you about the taste of tumors, the scent of memory, the bite of drought with a ‘heart that is empty, quite empty’,” reads the blurb on Huzaifa Pandit’s debut collection of poems, ‘Green is the Colour of Memory’.
Huzaifa is pursuing his PhD in resistance poetry from University of Kashmir, focusing on Faiz (Pakistan), Agha Shahid Ali (Kashmiri origin) and Mahmoud Darwish (Palestine). His book is a collection of 36 poems. It has been published by Hawakal Publishers.
His poetry subtly describes “Kashmir as an expression of love, of hurt and a dream one chases for a life without violence and trauma”.
The book was the prizewinning entry of an international Chapbook competition held by Rhythm Divine Poets, Kolkata.
“I had submitted a short manuscript of about 20 poems in 2017 summer, and the results were declared in January 2018. They signed a deal then with Hawakal Publishers who were the publishers of one of the founding members Amit Shankar Saha. I later added about 10-12 poems to the manuscript, and it came out as a thin volume,” he says.
The book was written over a period of six years from 2012-18.
“The first draft of the poems was written when I was a Masters student at University of Pune, and studied creative writing in the first two semesters. However, most of the poems written during that period were eventually discarded. Most of the poems were written from 2014 to 2018 after I moved back (to Kashmir),” says Huzaifa.
Huzaifa treaded the path of writing in the summer of 2012.
“I started writing only in the summer of 2012. It came naturally as I struggled with a mental illness. Writing seemed to be a way to quiet the noise in my head. My doctors encouraged me to write, as it was thought to be a good catharsis,” he says.
After moving to Pune for his masters, the young poet struggled with the cultural difference, and loneliness.
“It was the first time I had been out of my home and away from my family. I turned to poetry to fill in the feelings of emptiness and loneliness. Since I also studied creative writing formally, I was required to produce poems as part of class assignments. That contributed too,” he says.
His book is comprised mainly of two kinds of poems – one which are deeply personal, written as a reaction to certain triggers and the political ones.
“For example, the title poem ‘Sketches of Memory’ was written at night in the first semester. I was returning from the hostel mess which was a ten-minute walk from our hostel after dinner. It was a dark path, and at a bend I noticed an electric lamp which threw greenish shadows on the ground. The first line of the poem: Green is the colour of memory, came floating in my mind, and thus the poem was conceived,” he recounts.
Huzaifa recalls that while pursuing his Masters, he also became more deeply aware of his Kashmiri Muslim identity.
“This happened primarily since I had excellent professors for three courses which deal with identity politics: Post-Colonial Literature, Feminism and LGBTQ literature. The LGBTQ professor, R Raj Rao, who was also our Head of Department, is an excellent poet in his own right, who writes about Queer identity. Drawing from the readings and responses, I started bringing more of Kashmir into my poetry,” he says.
With his love for Faiz Ahmed Faiz, he tried to express the experience of Kashmir in the poems.
“At the Cafes of your Memory, is an example that tries to express the survivor’s guilt after hearing news of civilian killings,” he says.
Commenting on the response received by the book so far, Huzaifa says, “Depends upon your definition of response. If you go by the numbers sold, then it may not be a raging success. But, if you judge it by the responses of those who have read it, it has been a decent success, atleast on social media. Recently, a friend Frency Manecksha wrote an essay on RAIOT dissecting the recent UN report on Kashmir. She started and ended with quotes from poems in the book. As it is poetry doesn’t sell a great deal, as compared to say, a novel, so that must be factored in too. Within its limitations, I think it has done alright.”
While explaining the myriad problems faced by budding writers, Huzaifa is especially critical of vanity publishing which has seen a spurt in recent years.
“Well the primary problem as with everything else is conflict. Conflict consumes the society with the anxiety of survival. It leaves no time for pursuits like establishment of any serious institution say a poetry collective that would encourage young people. The second problem is lack of access. Universities and schools still don’t encourage any serious pursuit of literature. It is all exam-oriented, and rarely develops a taste for literature that translates into lack of reading habits which thwarts growth,” he says.
He describes the explosion of “self-publishing” another major problem, as it allows you to bypass the traditional route where “you have to really slog and revise till some publisher accepts your work”.
The young poet has another book in the pipeline which will be translated mainly from Urdu, accompanied by essays elaborating contexts.
“I have a view that translation can be employed as a tool of production of resistance literature, and the book will demonstrate my theory.”
“The Night of Broken Glass is a work of terrifying and hypnotic beauty. Feroz Rather unsparingly sees through the horrors inflicted on the body and soul of Kashmir. I am reeling from the power and beauty of its sentences,” writes author, Basharat Peer.
Debutant author, Feroz Rather is currently a doctoral student of creative writing at Florida State University.
His novel ‘The night of Broken Glass’ is published by Harper Collins, India.
It is a fictional account of the sufferings of common people from the insurgency-torn ‘90s. It provides the readers a glimpse of the courage and daily life struggles of the people.
“In Kashmir we’ve experienced the worst. The spectacles of violence are jarring. The Night of Broken Glass is an attempt to capture that in the form of stories. There is a story called “The Stone Thrower” about this boy who witnesses another boy with a torn skull. The story measures the psychological impact of that experience on the protagonist and the battle to preserve his humanity and sanity,” says Feroz.
The author’s tryst with storytelling began at an early age. “I have been writing for many years now. When I started my MFA in 2010 at California State University, I wrote every morning for a couple of hours. But the Night of Broken Glass is something completely new and was written in Tallahassee during the last two years,” says Feroz.
Feroz believes that over the last three decades, Kashmir has been mired in violence and the effects of the violence on its inhabitants have rarely been rendered in fiction.
“It is one of the first fiction books in the market talking about Kashmir. The author’s writing style draws the reader in as it paints a violent image of the insurgency while also treating it with gentleness, peace and courage. It is one of our lead literary debuts,” says the young author.
His detailed imagery explores the psychological impact of the turmoil on its natives – Showkat who is made to wipe off graffiti on the wall of his shop with his tongue; Rosy, a progressive, jeans-wearing ‘upper-caste’ girl who is in love with ‘lower-caste’ Jamshid; Jamshid’s father Gulam, a cobbler by profession who never finds his son’s bullet-riddled body; the ineffectual Nadim ‘Pasture’ who proclaims himself a full-fledged rebel; even the barbaric and tyrannical Major S who has to contend with his own nightmares.
Rather recommends a generous dose of reading for any budding writer. He himself read Joyce’s Dubliners observing its craft and characterization closely, and was finally inspired enough to write a short story about a woman from Pampore titled ‘The Summer of 2010’.
The book has got rave recommendations from noted authors like Basharat Peer, Mirza Waheed, and Siddhartha Deb.
“Various media houses lining up to review it and interview the author. The cover has also been well received by people,” says Feroz
The experimentation into new genres bodes well for the English literary traditions in Kashmir.


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Accused in Central Jail incident identified, chargesheet to be completed soon

Nisar Dharma

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Srinagar, May 25: The accused in the April 4 incident of clashes inside the Central Jail Srinagar have been identified and booked and the chargesheet against the same will be filed soon, J&K has said.
The matter was discussed during the visit of DGP Police & Prisons J&K Dilbag Singh to the Central Jail on Saturday, who held a detailed security review meeting with the Jail Superintendent, officers, Zonal SP, DySP and concerned CRPF officers.
During the meeting, a police spokesperson said, the DGP impressed upon the officers to ensure that the security of the Central Jail is further augmented in view of the incident of the “rioting and violence” in leading to serious intervention and action against the culprits for causing damage to the jail buildings and other infrastructure.
“Progress on the case FIR No. 19/2019 registered at Police Station Rainawari in this regard was reviewed with the Zonal SP and DySP. It was reported that considerable progress has been made. Most of the accused persons have been identified and booked, shall be charge-sheeted soon,” the spokesperson said.
He added that part of the restoration works of the damaged areas has already been initiated and the remaining shall be taken up soon after the approval and grant of funds from the state authorities.
As reported by The Kashmir Monitor early this month, the authorities had shifted at least 60 inmates – and were planning to move many more – from Srinagar Central Jail to other jails of the state following the incident of clashes and protests within the facility in April.
In the intervening night of April 4 and 5, as many as 400 inmates were engaged in night-long clashes with the jail authorities after the latter tried to move them out of their barracks.
The facility was damaged even as tear-gas shells and pump-action pellet guns were used against the inmates. At least, two of them were grievously injured. The jail is located in a densely populated area of the city.
The administration alleged the inmates “attempted jailbreak” while the inmates said they protested against the alleged desecration of the religious scriptures by the jail staff, a claim that was totally negated by the Jail Superintendent.
A week later, the inmates went on a hunger strike and refused to meet any of the visitors including their kin.
Their demands then included withdrawal of FIR against them in connection with the protests and clashes and transfer of the Jail Superintendent.
A team comprising of the members of High Court Bar Association (HCBA) had also visited the Jail after Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Srinagar, had asked the jail authorities to permit and facilitate the visit.
The team filed their report to CJM on April 13.
The team, as per the HCBA statement, had found that the “inmates felt a conspiracy was being hatched against them and the state had adopted a hostile attitude towards them for their political ideology and thought.”
The Bar members had also found that after the incident, there was a communication breakdown between the inmates and the jail administration.

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Noted Kashmir expert Yousuf Buch passes away in New York

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Srinagar, May 25: Yousuf Buch, a noted Kashmir expert, former Pakistani minister and former Senior Advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations, passed away in the US on Friday evening at his home in New York.
“Grieved to hear about the death of Ambassador Yousuf Buch in US, a legend and a living encyclopaedia on Kashmir who dedicated his life to the Kashmir cause. He was a close aide of Mirwaiz Yousuf Shah in Muzzafarabad who later served as advisor to UN Sec Gen for 18 years. Praying for the magfirah of this illustrious son of Kashmir,” tweeted Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
“M Yusuf Buch a scarcely known authoritative voice on Kashmir is no more. Civil servant, policy maker, political advisor & much more. A Kashmiri to the core, an intellectual with Graham Greene, Paul Sweezy, & Baran as friends. Would like to be remembered as Ambassador Buch. RIP!” former J&K Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu tweeted.
The Secretary General of Washington-based World Kashmir Awareness Forum, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, in an emailed statement said the funeral prayers of Ambassador Yusuf Buch will be held at Makkah Masjid in Brooklyn, New York.
He added the body of the deceased will be transported to Pakistan where he will be buried in Muzaffarabad.
Born in Kalashpora Srinagar 1922, the Buch’s were three brothers: Yusuf, Ghulam Naqashaband, who eventually became the Resident Commissioner in Delhi and Mohammad Amin Buch, who became the Chief Conservator of forests in Jammu and Kashmir and would also run Chenar newspaper.
Yusuf Buch, according to reports, topped a civil administration examination during Dogra rule and was appointed as Tehsildar somewhere around the early forties. He was posted in Baramulla for a few years.
Buch was one of the many persons exiled by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1949. Open source information suggests that the staunch Muslim Conference supporter, Buch was arrested and driven to Suchetgrah in Jammu and later sent to Pakistan. He was accompanied, in the same bus, by Agha Showkat Ali, Barrister Abdul Gani Rentoo, and Mahmood Hashmi.
Buch was considered as an encyclopaedia on Kashmir as he had witnessed almost every major development from a very closer quarter.
Buch came to the US in 1953 as a winner of an International Essay Contest sponsored by the United Nations. Later, he worked as a correspondent at the United Nations. He also, ran a Free Kashmir Centre in New York from 1957 to 1972. He remained a Senior Advisor to the United Nations Secretary General for over 18 years.

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Muslim couple thrashed after beef rumours in MP

Omar says ‘just the beginning’; ‘Horrified’ reacts Mehbooba

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Bhopal, May 25: In an appalling case reported from Seoni district of Madhya Pradesh, a Muslim couple was brutally thrashed for allegedly carrying beef. The victims have complained that they were forced to chant ‘Jai Shree Ram’ by the accused men.
The local police Friday arrested five vigilantes after the video went viral showing five men beating up three persons including the Muslim couple on suspicion of carrying meat.
The video further shows ‘gaurakshaks’ forcing the three to shout ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans. The incident happened on May 22 but the police came to know of it on May 24 when the video came to the fore.
Dunda Seoni police station incharge Ganpat Uikey said that Shubham Baghel, a habitual offender, Yogesh Uikey, Deepesh Namdev, Rohit Yadav and Shyam Dehriya have been arrested for assault. The five have been booked under IPC sections 143, 148, 149, 341, 294, 323 and 506 and also section 25 of arms act.
On May 22, Taufik, Anjum Shama and Dilip Malviya were arrested under the anti-cow slaughter act and sent to judicial custody after the cow vigilantes informed the police that they were allegedly carrying the meat in an autorickshaw and a two-wheeler from Khairi village. The meat has been sent to a laboratory for testing. Seoni SP Lalit Shakyawar said the situation was under control.
Ganpat said that a relative of one of the three persons filed an FIR after the video surfaced. He said the vigilantes informed the police after roughing up and beating the trio. He added that one of the accused Shubham Baghel belongs to an organisation called Shriram Sena.
Meanwhile, former J&K CMs, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah reacted to the incident.
“Horrified to see cow vigilantes thrash an innocent Muslim with such impunity in MP. Hope @OfficeOfKNath takes swift action against these goons,” Mehbooba tweeted.
Omar Abdullah’s remark was a bit poetical referring to the rise of Hindutva in BJP 2.0 regime.
“Ibtedaae ishq hai rota hai kya, Aage Aage dekhiye hota hai kya,” he tweeted. The Urdu verse roughly translating into, “It’s the start of love, why do you cry? Behold, there is more to follow.”

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