Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dance of freedom

the resistance dance of kashmir- 'Ragda'

With arms entwined, bodies pressed together forming a huddle, feet tapping to a rhythmic slogan, Kashmir has its first dance of resistance. ‘Ragda’- as it is known in Kashmir has emerged as the symbol of anger and resistance in the ongoing mass movement. 

Some one standing in the middle of the circle chants ‘Bharat ko Ragda’ (we have stomped India) and the people in the huddle shout- ‘de Ragda’ (stomped it) while vigorously stomping their feet on the ground. “It is a mark of Kashmir’s anger against all betrayals and inhumanities. This dance best describes the passion we have for freedom”, says Jamshed Shah, 19, a boy standing in the middle of the huddle. 

The dance was first visible during the 9- day uprising in July over the Amarnath land row. When the order was revoked, the streets of Lal Chowk were stomped till midnight- and the dance was born. Earlier restricted to Srinagar city only, ‘Ragda’ gradually made its way to all parts of Kashmir.

In a massive gathering of people today at Eidgah, nearly filling the ground with an estimated capacity of 10 lakh, the ‘Ragda’ dance was complimented by the beat of drums. The thud of drums followed by the pounding of the feet could be heard from quite a distance. “We got the drums yesterday because we thought it would go well with the dance”, says Tariq Ahmad (name changed), a university graduate who bought the drums.  

Women stand close by the side and clap to the beats, young girls jump to have a peep in, and their voices screeching distinctly. “Do the ‘Ragda’” says Rakshanda, a 7 year old girl hunched on the shoulders of his father to people sitting on a truck. Some teenagers jump down and start the dance. The girl also joins and soon dozens of young kids form a huddle of their own and tap their feet on the road. “We love this dance and practice it at home at evenings. We have also made a game called ‘Ragda’”, says Rakshanda, as she climbs back on her father’s shoulders.

At around 7 in the evening, people on around 400 bikes rode through the entire Srinagar city, beating drums and stopping at every neighborhood to do the Ragda. “It (Ragda) is the symbol of resurgent Kashmir which has an equal passion for freedom as it had 20 years ago. We thought of this bike march yesterday and got more than 400 bikes with us”, says Yasir, a biker.

“It has become our anthem. I keep humming it unconsciously and thought I had become obsessed with it but I understood there is nothing wrong with it when my friends said the same thing”, says Yasir.  


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