[Reader-list] The day Tibetans made fun of Kashmiris
justjunaid at rediffmail.com
Tue Apr 15 01:37:31 IST 2008
The afternoon sun shone bright on Srinagar?s busy MA Road. Honking cars jostling for space gave tough time to the only traffic policeman present; his whistles lost in the din. Dressed immaculately, with a turban crowning his bearded head, the policeman directs the unruly traffic. The veins in his neck stick out; his red face and blood shot eyes proof of the pressure he is under. With each whistle blow, blood drains out from his face only to return slowly. From a short distance, atop fortified guard towers, two paramilitary troopers guarding the chief minister?s residence watch him. A car grazes against another one, and a verbal duel ensues. A few heavily-armed policemen in battle fatigues hurl abuses as they lung forward to intervene. On the other side of the road some Tibetans assemble. A cop walks up to them, says something, and hurriedly withdraws.
The Tibetans put on head bands. A Tibetan man brings out some placards and banners from a waiting auto-rickshaw. They form two lines, one on either side of the road, and start marching. Two long rows walk silently. The traffic cop is distracted; he looks on dreamily at the strange marchers. He is woken from his reverie by the sound of horns and cars coming to a screeching halt. Boys from the nearby SP College, evading the wrathful eyes of baton-wielding policemen who act as Kashmir?s moral cops, wait as usual for girls to come out of the adjoining Women?s college. They look surprised upon seeing the marchers; they don?t know what the march is about. Some of them look at the marchers and at the police in quick glances. Past few weeks have not been good for protestors in Srinagar: first the employees of electric department were beaten blue, then the striking state transport employees were thrashed badly, and in the nearby Maisuma, young Liberation Front activists were tear-gassed and baton-charged. The police, however, stays put. Some students move forward to read the banners.
?Stop Cultural Genocide of Tibetans.?
The bright yellow headbands with the traditional Tibetan symbols of red and blue rays radiating from a rising yellow sun behind a snow mountain, and two snow lions protecting Buddha?s three-coloured jewel, attracts curiosity.
?What is this?? a student asks.
?This is our flag? replies a smiling Tibetan.
?Who are you?? asks the confused student. A man sitting on a railing, caresses his well-trimmed beard, laughs awkwardly, and says:
?Don?t you see these are Botta? They are from Ladakh. Tibetan market.? The marchers keep moving; and at the end of the road they turn right toward the Tourist Reception Centre, of which only a burnt plinth is left now. A billboard, with pictures of a sari-clad Sonia Gandhi, blue-turbaned Manmohan Singh, and a traumatized head-shot of Mufti Saeed, celebrating the inauguration of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service as a historic step toward peace, stands tilted face-forward in front of the now open space; the long yellow wooden building with a green conical roof that once housed the centre no longer there. The date ?April 07, 2005? is partially blackened by the soot from the burning building where two holed-up guerrillas had died fighting only a day before the bus was to be inaugurated by the Indian prime minister. A man comes forward from the adjoining state transport yard; he yells hysterically:
?Hey all come see Botta!?
The man, looking like a mechanic with his greased clothes, reads the word F-R-E-E-D-O-M. It takes him some time to make the necessary connections, and then sighs sadly. He asks some questions in Kashmiri; the Tibetan he asked responds by bowing a little with a smile on his face. A sumo-driver from the taxi stand on the other side makes a bawdy physical gesture, and in Kashmiri, shouts:
?O yes, we received it long back, only you haven?t!?
A group of rural folk with bags full of merchandise pause to look; they put their load down, stretch and ease themselves. An elderly woman in the group is told by a college student what the march is about. The woman?s eyes well up; she wipes her tears, inhales deeply, and prays aloud with her hands raised:
?May, my Shah-e-Jeelan protect you!?
The Tibetans smile at passers-by. Their leader looks at his watch, takes out his phone, and makes some calls. They turn right again onto the Residency Road. Many more people watch from sides. The cars slow down to read the placards for a while, and then hurry away. By now a flock of photographers and cameramen from the nearby press enclave have descended on the scene. They take close-ups and mug shots; they zoom out from marching Tibetans to focus on the overlooking Takht-e-Sulaiman in the distance. One cameraman moves close to a protestor?s face, focussing on his eyes, apparently to capture his emotions. Some Tibetans bring out pictures of Dalai Lama. The cameramen find it difficult to keep shifting stands; the marchers will wait for them. After a while, the march resumes but will come to an end shortly afterwards. A bearded young man pulls a young Tibetan to the side, and tells him:
?If you become Muslim, we will fight them together.?
The young Tibetan excuses himself, and hurriedly jumps into a waiting auto-rickshaw, like his other compatriots, and leaves. A former rebel leader, coming out of a shop in Lal Chowk, says:
?We must learn from Tibetans. See how they have brought the mighty Chinese to their knees.? He quickly adds an Urdu verse:
?Kisi Shehenshah ne bana ke Taj Mahal,
Hum gariboon ki mohabat ka udaya hai mazaak.?
(Some emperor, by building the Taj Mahal,
Has mocked at the love of us, poor people.)
?By asking for their freedom in Srinagar, Tibetans have made fun of the Kashmiri people.?
Kashmir is under threat of losing all its crazy mad men; they are getting shot and killed every other day. Some are killed, as the Indian army argues, because these mentally-challenged people don?t stop when asked, while others are shot dead because they run around wildly. If the Indian army does not stop its campaign against them, Kashmir might lose this rare breed of people soon.
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