Buying Arts to Bury Resistance


Zaahid Mushtaq


Arts and Artists occupy a unique role in the society. Through a diversity of approaches, they explore new terrains that words alone are incapable of describing. Art can address issues, help solve problems and even help serve as a ‘public psychiatrist’ that surfaces social anxieties. People ultimately need to be reminded of two things- that they are not impotent and disconnected spectators but active and engaged participants in the ongoing vibrant spectrum of life. Resistance art can be a seed that helps people understand their situation and how they might work to improve it in general and their society in particular.

In Kashmir, where repression and injustice and other forms of social evils are often overlooked, dismissed in a cursory way, or deemed to be inevitable and immutable and even when these problems are acknowledged resistance to them is shallow, erratic, uncoordinated and immutable.

The resistance movement in Kashmir, which has seen many peaks and troughs in the recent years and though the proximity of opposition among masses, the persistent arts have become a tool of the powerful, the oppressor and a diversion of the wealthy, inevitably making the poor sufferer. The introduction of perverted Sufism and Sufi traditions, the unusual hype by the corporate media houses to divert the attention of commoners, unavailability of promotion platforms of admirable arts, and censorship has disseminated the resistance arts in the valley and young boys, among masses, are taking to means that can prove detrimental to the society in general and the movement in particular. The social media promotion of both the Anti and Pro-Resistance arts, which includes short filmed stories and musical compositions depicting the convivial side of ‘ THE KASHMIR STORY’ while neglecting the larger gloomier and morose side, is swelling. However, pro-resistance is largely offended by the citizenry, barring exceptions.

The authorities, to curb the ‘Pro’ sentiment, have limited the scope of such arts and activities in the Valley. A movement to introduce “Humanism” as a religion has started. Kashmiriyat has overtaken all the social boundaries of recognition if any, a Kashmiri had. No preacher of resistance and resistant arts is allowed to deliver a talk or lecture even, at the highest seat of learning -The Kashmir University. However, musical concerts and evening shows are a common sight. The atypical hype offered to the musicians, and the self- styled rappers of rationalism and other such enterprises are manifestations of the direction being given to the movement, in which the mainstream and the separatists hold the equal share for their inability to promote non-violent arts and methods. Reshma sang since1998, Saifuddin’s music is jihad, but what the populace has failed to understand is that their language, culture, and traditions in a perverted form are used against them- a popular discourse in colonialism, to strengthen the grip and hold of the occupier.

Kashmir, contemptuously, stands at a place where the introduction of any false arts might lead to the subversion of the movement. Arts and activities must never be criticized, provided they don’t prove detrimental and considering the situation of their application. Critical thinking and love of knowledge are what differentiates the art from artistic klutziness and masses ought not to forget, ‘Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.’

Plebeians, in Kashmir, mustn’t forget that they are colonized, and  postcolonial discourse opines that ‘Talents’ among masses, in an occupation, has no scope, whatsoever, and the colonial masters after highlighting a certain single aspect actually aim to culturally dominate so as to exploit the masses better politically as well as economically of which the valley offers a good example. This is done intentionally for two reasons- first with the intention of inviting their reluctant compatriots back home to come over to tighten the grip on the colonized and secondly, to prevent their image and derive economic and political benefits from the international community. According to Franz Fanon, “colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding people in its grip and emptying the native’s brain of all form and content. By a kind of ‘Perverted Logic,’ it turns the past of the oppressed people, and distorts, disfigures and destroys it.” The cultural domination being talked about here is the introduction of illusory arts, which some people regard as the driving force behind their success and blessing from the occupier without the actual comprehension of the losses it does to the freedom movement. The orientalist’s discourse also proves the fact above. To quote Edward Said, “colonialism uses narrative to dispel contradictory memories and occlude violence- the exotic replaces the impress of power with the blandishments of curiosity- with the imperial presence so dominating as to make impossible any efforts to separate it from historical necessity. All these together create an amalgam of arts and narrative and observation about the accumulated, dominated and ruled territories whose inhabitants seem destined never to escape, to remain the creatures of the occupiers will.” The colonizers want to humanize the natives, on the one hand, to divert their attention from their real issues and on the other, they don’t want to humanize fully fearing the loss of hegemony.

The same, as already mentioned apply to the valley also. It is not such that the people must not participate in such acts and arts, but they must bear in mind the heavy toll the occupiers have made us pay. Participation in innovative arts must never be criticized, but it is also necessary to decipher the advantages or disadvantages the occupier is taking from it.

Art is not innocent. It is impregnated with anesthesia that lulls oppressed in a false sense of hope. As a social tool, it is safest of the weapons in the armory of the oppressor to infiltrate into the otherwise agitated subconscious self of the oppressed with a sedative effect. It is the camouflaged means to invade the confused psyche of the colonized without making him feel its presence. The colonized continues to seek God’s wrath on oppressor, but with every passing day, he loses the distinction of being a group apart. Here artworks as the bridge.  Because the soft power of the oppressor’s art succeeds to garner some ‘consent’ for the ‘hegemony,’ in the Gramscian sense, and consequently aborts chances of revolution.

The colonized can’t stay away from objects of art in a colonizer-controlled society. To counter art, he has to reinvent and reinvigorate counter-culture which must be rooted in its history of resistance. New objects of art representing resistance, sacrifices, and distinctiveness of the native oppressed have to be concretized, affirmed and transmitted to a new generation. Arts representing defiance in its spirit and revolution in its method are as important for the oppressed as are foot soldiers for the colonizer.

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