Over hundreds of years of occupation and subjugation Kashmir has evolved its own culture of resistance. But least would be the times in the history of this long troubled Valley when cultural edifice, as such, was used as a tool of resistance. Rather art and culture have mostly been hijacked and put to use by the oppressors to further oppress the oppressed. Forms of art whether folk or contemporary, though performed by the people, but appropriated by the establishment, hence most of the times serve the interests of the state not the people.
Natives, for a long time now, are used to amuse the usurpers or the elite created by them and that is addressed as culture and art.
State has penetrated deep inside the people and succeeded in co-opting a space so essential and private to identity as culture. Haqeeqat was an attempt to reclaim that space. And that is what made it historic.
Various forms of fine arts have developed in different cultures of world as acts of defiance and in many cases as very radical too. History of progressive movement in literature in sub continent and evolution of rap as a part of resistance during the movement against racial discrimination are some of the examples. However, in Kashmir, as per the view largely held by the masses, any act of cultural form: theatre, painting, poetry or music would be seen as collaboration. It would bring a sense of dejection and alienation among the common people. Haqeeqat proved to be a successful attempt to change that discourse or at least a beginning towards such a change.
Diversity not only of performances but also of performers and their value systems was another striking feature of the Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir. It reflected the haqeeqat (truth) of Kashmir in more than one way: not only in portraying the pain and agony of almost last two and a half decades but also in displaying, with unusual ease, the set of variety of thought and belief Kashmir today is. From the same podium we heard Moulana Amir Usmani: a veteran poetic voice of Jammat-e-Islami in the sub-continent and progressive poets like Jalib and Faiz, an enthralling performance by young rappers was followed by a traditional band pather with all its native colorfulness of jargon and satire. Verses from Alama Iqbal, quoted extensively, were appealing to the emotions of the audience and at the same time renderings of native poets did the catharses and moistened the eyes hardened by the gruesome realities of the conflict people have been living, generation after generation, since more than half a century now.
History of Kashmir’s protracted resistance has witnessed political and militant expressions at varied scales, though occupation has not been political only. Despite the deep cultural agenda behind political subjugation, cultural intervention in the resistance was by and large missing. Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir filled this gap and paid this long due in the same coin.
The fact that this intervention came from civil society made it all the more meaningful. Haqeeqat-e-Kashmir was in true sense a people’s event.
A nation is not subjugated all at once. History tells us that, most of the times, it happens in phases. Its culture is taken first then economy is controlled and in the similar fashion each and every institution is destroyed, distorted or overpowered till the process of domination is complete. Therefore, liberation also is not a single-go affair; it happens in phases too. For last six decades people here have been fighting for their political and economic freedom. Haqeeqat was an endeavor to liberate culture. It liberated a bhand, a poet, an artist and a musician from the shackles of co-option and collaboration they were brought down with. The liberation was not necessarily the physical one but more psychological. It happened not only in the minds of the performers but more importantly in the minds of the audiences: the people. Haqeeqat-e- Kashmir unsettled, and should have done so, the formal structures of authority as it was displacing, rather etherizing the subliminal rot accumulated over the years by subtle psy-ops carried out through corruption of cultural institutions; by first dislocating them from the public spaces and relocating them after transforming them into tools of propaganda and agenda-setting.
In the process of liberation of minds, haqeeqat brought down many fences erected by the establishment to disintegrate the dissenting mass into many sub- entities, using its innumerable instruments in the cultural and ideological sector; so that the broken entities are easy to manage, in many cases which they do themselves by engaging with each other instead of the State.
And establishment conveniently keeps shifting sides and gets absolved from the burden of ‘managing the crowd’.
In reclaiming the spaces and the institutions Haqeeqat was translated into a journey from ‘us’ to ‘them’, annihilating the ‘other’ to become ‘we’, acceptable to each other with all our disagreements and divisions. It was somewhere deep in the mind a process of integration happening.
You can fight arms with arms, diplomacy with diplomacy; however, for an operation of the nature and scale of ‘sadhbahvna’ a meaningful cultural response is inevitable.
If forgetting is death, memory is life. Haqeeqat was a walk, that we all took together, from death to life. It was a celebration of life and every sigh, each smile and every tear that rolled down all the cheeks: rural or urban, signified this. In commemorating those of our brothers and sisters who kissed the touchstone of eternity we were living our real selves. The spell of inertia was breaking. The cold layer of death that had taken over our bodies and souls was melting away. Each one of us could hear the cracking within. The martyrs we recalled were sharing the bliss of their eternity with us. They were slowly but steadily taking away the state of death we had wittingly or unwittingly crawled into, and were giving us the ehsaas (feeling) of our life back. And then everybody in the audience started chanting along with a poet, Shabir, one of his lines affirming the transient transition: hum zinda hain, hum zinda hain, hum zinda hain…( we are alive, we are alive, we are live.).