Kashmir: Poking the Politics

   

At the peak of the pandemic, a set of characters took off on social media and spread faster than COVID-19. While they operated on the margins of Kashmir politics that was in deep freeze, the society consumed them as entertainers, a trend that now political parties seem to be accommodating formally, reports Syed Shadab Ali Gillani

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For most of the election campaign duration, this season, a video kept circulating on social media in which a lady was talking about waada, the promise. Eventually, it turned into a basket of memes, a bundle of jokes and a catchphrase for millions of Kashmiris.

The waada lady, Falak Jan is affiliated with Apni Party and this video helped her become an internet sensation especially after her interview with a local news portal went viral. She became a household name for her take-it-easy, non-serious and casual approach. The delivery of the sentences acted as the hook of the clip.

Associated with PDP, Falak followed Altaf Bhaijan and switched her support to Altaf Bukhari after he later floated his own brand new political party, the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party. Her reason for leaving PDP, or her statement about NC chief Farooq Abdullah made it to memes. “woh khud karta hai dance” was her curt response to the question, which means ‘he is himself resorting to dancing’.

Falak Jan

It was in her follow-up interview, she talked about waada, and its types. “Initially, it was no waada, then it was ab waada,” this dialogue of Falak went viral for its humorous connotation. Since then, she has been known as the waada lady. In the just concluded Lok Sabha election, she was seen campaigning for Altaf Bukhari, whom she terms “a perfect leader’ and ‘bhai jaan’ (big brother).

During many of her campaigns, she made many big claims, amongst which the bringing back of Article 370 was, something which even her leader has not ever said. Falak usually sits in the front row of public gatherings of her party.

Falak’s take on things is deeply liked and appreciated by the people. “My byte always goes viral and people love it when I say anything,” she admits. “The people of Jammu and Kashmir are my fans. Whenever I say anything, people always love it. I never knew I would become this famous Ma Sha Allah.”  She also manages a fan account, with “Most trending face of Kashmir,” in its bio.

Not Alone

Pertinently, Kashmir politics is filled with people like Falak, who manage to strike a chord with the people for their distinctive personality and interventions, usually using satire, humour or unconventional communication skills. Just like Falak, Fayaz Scorpio, Babbar Sher, Aabid Rabad have already made a place for themselves and whenever any video or reel featuring them is shared anywhere online it garners impressive views. The only problem is that while these people think they are transacting politics, society consumes it as entertainment.

Abid Rabad

Abid ‘Rabad’ has been consistently releasing his videos, which always go viral. With more than 36000 followers on his Facebook page, Rabad’s support lies with the PDP. Most of his videos are political. It is often laced with humour.

Given his association with PDP, he can be seen attending almost all of the rallies of the party to show his support. On polling day, he had recorded his video driving voters to the polling booths.

“He is 36 but has an experience of 60 years old,” Rabad, a die-hard supporter of Waheed Parra tell about his leader. “You will never find an honest leader like him. He has told me about his childhood too. You will not find a leader like Waheed Parra, he knows the experience of being behind bars and I am sure he will help people in jail.”

In Tense Election Era

In the just concluded election, the first after the reading down of Article 370, people talked after a long time for almost two months. Amid the tense situation, people would turn to the world of humour and stories run by Falak, Rabad and others on the margin of formal politics.

At the peak of allegations that the political parties are offering money instead of support, came the Rabad clip in which he stated that people will say I am for PDP or BJP, but I want to make it clear “I am only after money.”

A Scorpio In Action

The fact is that Falak and Rabad are charting a trek that was laid by their seniors like Fayaz Ahmad Rather, aka Fayaz Scorpio, who claims to be the Deputy Sarpanch from the Lysar area of Rafiabad (Baramulla). He emerged on the scene at the peak of Covid19 shutdown.

“I had nobody opposing me when elections took place so I won,” Fayaz, who claimed he has studied up to ninth class, said.

A social media sensation, Fayaz’s take on things, funny antics, suggestions and his style of walking and talking always make rounds on different social media platforms. Off late, he is calling himself Fayaz Tiger. He talks about anything and he talks about everything. In one video he calls Omar a bhooda and it went viral. Later, he sought forgiveness and claimed the NC leader was his relative. In many of his interviews, he claimed he had close relations with the PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti’s father Mufti Sayeed. “I met Mufti saeb and I told him to introduce Mehboobaji in the party, to which he agreed.”

This scorpio has also claimed in many of his interviews about how JKNC offered him and his friends to join their party, “I later joined NC and then later left them. I then joined another party during the braid-chopping era. I have been a part of most of the political parties. And I have been a part of most of the political meetings in Kashmir.” Currently, he claims he is with the BJP. However, his family has been insisting that their ward has a serious mental issue and that whatever is happening to him on social media is abuse.

Recently, Fayaz stirred up a controversy and a viral video showed a woman applying make-up to his face. With this lady, he made many videos that triggered a lot of hate, and controversy. Recently he was also seen in Lal Chowk wearing an acchkan dress and people could not stop but click his pictures and videos.

The Babbar Sher

In the overall ranking, Scorpio falls next to the ‘statement king’ of Kashmir, the Babbar Sher who also rose to prominence during the pandemic. However, his rise and spread were faster than Covid19. Born as Peerzada Muhammad Shafi Shah, he came to be known as Babbar Sher after his strong and roaring protests caught both attention and grabbed eyeballs.

Initially associated with Congress for more than ten years, this well-dressed man can say anything. His humorous and satirical talking often gets consumed on social media in bulk. His way of communicating and articulating things has its own fan base in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. He manages to strike the right chords with the people. He claims he fears none. Interestingly, it was him only who gave himself the title of Babar Sher. When he mispronounced Yogi Adityanath as Yogi Anantnag, he took social media by storm. His signature tune is Sher aaj baat karaenge – the lion will speak today.

Unlike all others, Babbar Sher is well off. Within days after his ‘stardom’, he started driving into a Scorpio SUV.  Many people think he is more than what he looks or behaves like. Unlike others, he knows the value of money and also knows how to make it.

An Inspiration

The rise of Fayaz and Shafi as the comic characters of Kashmir’s paralysed politics was a huge inspiration for many men and women to use social media to get noticed by one or the other reason. During the last DDC polls, it was a viral video by Rabiya Rasool, a BJP contestant from Kangan. “Meray Chehray Ko Vote dou – give vote to my face, she said in a video and she emerged the chartbusters on social media.

These characters emerged in Kashmir politics at a time when the politics was itself in deep freeze. Their emergence was generally seen as an effort by the powers to make fun of the institution of politics in Kashmir. People, however, took them with a pinch of salt and consumed them as the entertainers of an era that is expected to offer tons of satire and humour once Kashmir starts breathing normally.

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