On the Other Side of the Wall

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As he stood behind the wall and shouted, ‘I’m not a free man’, the professor’s ‘art of politics’ on the upcoming Article 370 anniversary once again made his Kashmir paperback his political introduction.

By Shah Masood

SAIFUDDIN SOZ appeared captive, for the cause best known to him, when he recently stood behind his residential razor-wired wall, to decry his detention. But before the ex-union minister could even finish his unconventional media address, a cop in plainclothes cut him short, and dragged him down from his desperate podium.

In a seething state of shock, the livid professor howled at the hostile cop, for treating him as if he was a threat to “the law of the land”.

In the run-up to first anniversary of Article 370 abrogation—the event witnessing some defreezing of politics in the valley—the mainstream political camp is coming out of the confines, and talking some forgotten business.

Much of the explanation for this ‘relevant to the times’ politics comes from Soz’s own chronicle— Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle—denounced as “the book about half-truths” when it was published in 2018.

The professor who chose politics as his career during tumultuous eighties has tried to thread all the chapters of the Kashmir history in a single knot. However, his attempt to explain the region’s topography makes it a dull discourse.

If the professor’s geography lecture is a dud description, then his history lesson is a dead dialogue.

As someone expected to write more about his personal history as a politician active during Kashmir’s turbulent years, Prof Soz instead chose to record some safe, clichéd and disputed ancient history.

He tries his best to simplify the complex, weaved with a supreme sense of mythological sleight of hand, and yet ends up adding more confusion in the process.

The professor’s fault lies in his political stars—making his tribe to beat about the bush, rather than hitting nail on its head.

Perhaps, the professor should know that rehashing history is no penmanship.

And that’s why his latest polemic is now coming in the memory of his chronicle, where he jumps, like in real life, from one historical aspect to the other. This shuttling, sadly, comes at the cost of hook and attention.

While some non-local bureaucrats of his era have come up with some fascinating statecraft stories of nineties—the thespian years full of thriller accounts—the professor is conveniently lecturing us on the confluence of the Bhakti Movement which ultimately laid the foundation of the so-called “Kashmiriyat”.

For a change, he shifts his focus on travellers frequenting the valley of yore. Their legacy, in the form of troubling travelogues, has been reproduced in vernacular publications umpteen times. And yet, they find space in the professor’s ambitious book!

He doesn’t stop there.

While discussing rulers and clans through ages, he delivers a hasty lecture on post-1947 history.

An ex-parliamentarian and former minister of water resources in Dr. Manmohan Singh’s UPA government, Prof. Soz has tried to give a generalized view of the current problems faced by Kashmiris.

“In my opinion,” Soz writes in his book, “the primary responsibility goes to the Government of India, which must take steps to help the people of Kashmir to move out of the tormenting cycle of violence.”

Such concern, surprisingly, comes only after his party, Congress, ceased to rule New Delhi in the spring of 2014.

“The initial steps,” he continues, “could be to show a gesture of compassion for creating a situation of relief in the minds of Kashmiris who have suffered immense miseries from the very day the central government started dragging its feet from its commitments to willingly accept the decisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly and the provisions of autonomy guaranteed under the Delhi Agreement of 1952.”

As someone whose vote brought down the BJP government in 1999, Prof. Soz could’ve better told us about the history he watched as a witness.

But perhaps, that’s too much to ask from the man who has to now plead for his own detention. “I have to state that I continue to be under house arrest,” Soz shot a statement when this piece was being written.

Just like his book, which does not give any solution to the weary problems confronting the valley, the professor’s case, for some here, remains that of a spent-force standing on the other side of the wall.

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