An Innocuous Act Of Performance Questions The Meaning Of Freedom For Kashmir

Posted on June 16, 2012 in Society

By Raju Moza:

Recently one incident took place in the campus of Kashmir University, in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, which neither was covered in mainstream media nor on new media .Typically most of the events happening in Kashmir are vociferously discussed on social media. If the incident involves the state machinery or security forces, then the discussion will be ubiquitous across social media networking sites.Those who are regular in discussion were privy to this incident at campus, yet absence of discussion was conspicuous.There are reasons for brushing this under the carpet .

Let me first share the incident then the ironies and ramifications to the grand narrative of Azaadi. Few days back, some performance artists from Germany were doing ‘Performance art’ in the campus of Kashmir University.The act involved a female dancer trying to balance herself on a male partner’s hat. It was going smoothly suddenly, one guy intervened and said the performance is ‘anti-Islamist’,which was followed by lots of people joining the chorus and stopping the performance including the University Proctor.The university officials along with security and students of other departments took away the cameras from the artists and forced them to stop their activity.

Now what are the ironies and ramifications to this emotive narrative of Azaadi? First of all the incident didn’t attract any eyeballs, had a similar or less condemnable act done by any arms of state machinery, it would have been dissected with the intellectual jingoism. Since such incidents don’t augur well with the projected image of Azaadi as a movement and life thereafter, plausible enough that it was not discussed.

On top of it, these performance artists were led by a Delhi based Kashmiri pandit , who is known supporter of Azaadi.I wonder what kind of Azaadi he envisages since he didn’t have freedom to perform an innocuous act, let alone talk of nude or naked performances which he does in Delhi, every now and then. This is the condition when as its part of secular country called India, what will happen once it attains Azaadi? Here is what one of the aspiring artists from Kashmir had to say “All of these artists who became the victims of this incident finally arrived in Delhi a couple of days before. And about their experience of the event in the valley has been wonderful. But at the same time they all are of the opinion that to work as an artist in Kashmir is really difficult.”

Lots of people will advance an argument that in other cities of India, people do protest, there have been cases of people vandalising exhibitions and other artistic space. Most of them which have been attacked ,have been provocative to a particular community, I don’t condone those acts, no matter how offensive the art is , if the art is meant for artistic expression not with intention to hurt, I don’t endorse banning or any vigilantism. But in this case, it was just a performance art between male and female.

Another argument which can be thrown at, is that of local culture, but that question doesn’t arise since it was stopped on basis of it being anti-Islamist. Even if we consider local culture, all those who have lived in Kashmir, prior to this insurgency will vouch for how liberal the society was. In fact all those who are busy in settling political goals should introspect and ascertain why Kashmir was liberal, modern and quite progressive before the onset of insurgency. What is notable that even with so much radicalisation, remnants of that era can be still found.

Last point to all those liberals , who support the cause of Azaadi , don’t see this incident or the one which took place on 14th of February (females were heckled by one leading women’s organisation) as an aberration, post Azaadi it will be a norm since Kashmir has established an irreversible connection with the political Islam globally. I reckon and respect your aspirations for Azaadi, but please don’t shy away from the myriad of consequences which will be followed by Azaadi. The curtailment of freedom to express in the form of art and text will be one of them.

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