From ‘Go India’ to ‘Good Indian’: The Graffiti War in Kashmir
This is a showdown of a different sort.
An action which offers a unique job to government forces who by now must be tired of trigger pulling and baton waving. While in the dead of night, the anonymous youth of Kashmir replace stones with paint brushes to express their resolutions on metal shutters and walls, those hounding them try altering their thoughts during the daytime.
Coming straight from the bombed Palestine streets, the idea of graffiti protests have lately triggered a new cat and mouse situation in an equally beleaguered Kashmir. When forces retire to their bunkers and posts after a day of jack booting the people of Kashmir, masked youth discreetly come out, painting shop fronts and walls with messages reflecting their thoughts on freedom, India, and martyrs.
The Writing on the Wall, Quite Literally
Earlier, forces used to simply paint over such graffiti. However, after the ‘you write, we blot’ tug, the gun wielding powers that be have now resorted to ‘you write, we alter’ strategy. In this battle of words, the slogan ‘GO INDIA GO BACK’ painted by some protesting youth on a shutter in Old City is changed to ‘GOOD INDIAN’ by forces who add letters ‘OD’ to word GO and ‘N’ to INDIA to alter the thought.
Similarly, in another graffiti ‘BURHAN’S TOWN’ painted on the wobbly metal background, the letter T is slightly altered to look like a D and hence changes the expression to ‘BURHAN’S DOWN’. When caught in a quagmire over a graffiti that doesn’t give them space for their creative double-dealing, the forces simply cover them entirely with black or white paint.
Since Hizbul commander, Burhan Muzaffar Wani’s death in an encounter on 8 July 2016, such graffiti have found ample space in the curfewed alleys of Kashmir which has lost around 47 of its young men to ‘restrained’ (read unabashed) use of bullets and pellets.
Amid their little creative disfigurements, little do the forces know that these alterations strengthen the very writing on the wall; the fact that after brute force, it is the muzzling of dissent that has touched newer heights in Kashmir. That when killing of over 46 youth (it may be higher, we have lost the number now) and injuring thousands of others does not change the overall sentiment, how can altering a mere graffiti on a wall make any difference?
The response to graffiti protest is a small but potent example explaining how India and its set government here have only one way to deal with the mass dissent: jackboot it down the throat. And when they are done doing that, they try their best to tell the world their creatively altered versions of the story, so complex that it confuses even the brightest minds.
In this scheme of alterations, mass agitation is dished out as a ‘law and order’ issue, murders as ‘collateral damage’, brazen use of weaponry on unarmed people as ‘restrained mob controlling measure’, protesting youth as ‘miscreants’ and so on and so forth. After this, a quackery of shamelessness follows when the preying lot talks of ‘peace’ and ‘development’ while brushing under the carpet the blood of innocents.
(The writer is a Correspondent with Daily Kashmir Monitor. The views expressed in the article belong to the author alone. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)