Thursday, January 8, 2009

From Songs to Slogans



No one in the valley hums songs anymore. It is slogans that linger in air. In Kashmir, it is the season of slogans. People breathe slogans, discuss them, when it comes to rallies or processions, the place reverberates with separatist slogans. And when people assembled near the Tourist Reception Center (TRC) to present memorandum to the United Nations office, the transition in slogans with the change in leaders was quite visible.


As hundreds of thousands of people began to gather and fill the huge ground and its adjoining roads for several kilometers, the slogans rung clear and loud. It was all freedom. ‘We want freedom’ was the only slogan for an entire half an hour while JKLF leader Yasin Malik spoke. “Freedom for this side: freedom for that side” was Malik’s slogan- referring to both parts of Kashmir.


‘Hum Kya Chahte- Aazadi’(what do we want –Freedom) was rhymed from the loud speakers mounted on top of trucks, buses and trees. Then someone holding the microphone would whisper ‘ho aayi aayi’ (it has come, it has come) and the thousands would reply ‘Aazadi’ (Freedom). A few young boys would suddenly huddle around in the middle of a bigger procession, tap their feet vigorously on the dusty ground below and sing ‘Bharat ko ragda- de ragda’ (we have stomped India- Stomped it).


When Hurriyat hardline leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, made his way through the mammoth procession, the slogans changed. Pakistan made its way gradually. ‘Pakistan se rishta kya- la illa ha illal la’ (what is our bond with Pakistan- that there is no god but God) – the crowd shouted. Slogans like ‘Kashmir banega Pakistan’ (Kashmir will become Pakistan) resounded in a few corners of the ground. When Geelani concluded his speech, raising another slogan ‘hum Pakistani hain- Pakistan hamara hai’ (we are Pakistanis- and Pakistan is ours) and people said zaroor (definitely). Most of the faces in the crowd drooped, hands didn’t clap, and lips didn’t open to utter slogans. Someone sitting in the crowd shouted ‘Hum kya chahte’ and people raised hands and replied ‘Azadi’.     


“Freedom, that is what we have assembled here for. That is why we have died- for 

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