The flag bearers

Srinagar is cold in January. As cold as charity. Chilay-Kalan reigns supreme, like a polar bear in a blizzard. Only two things keep the mercury rising in the middle of winter: Srinagar’s smokey Harisa pinds [joints] and the nutty right-wing BJP’s sudden brain-fart to hoist the Indian flag on Lal Chowk’s clock tower.In a bid to out-flank the monkey-cap wearing BJP workers, the usually tranquil Yasin has made his own plans to lead a march to Lal Chowk on January 26. Old boy Geelani had to do his Hartal maths carefully this time and came up, as always, with a bright solution: Hartal on January 26 but, hold your breath, transport can ply [a blasphemous thought a few years back].

This January anyone wanting to march with Yasin can do so without any logistic problems, unless ofcourse the government decides to throw a spanner in the works. By the bye you have the option to come clad in Pheran and Kanger. Yasin is a bohemian and doesn’t mind such faux pas. Plus Kangeris can be put to good use. Just in case.

So equipped with the right degree of cautious conduct Omar darted off to Delhi. To Papa. To the man of all seasons. To Sher-i-Kashmir’s prodigal, if slightly off-color, son. The light-weight minister in the mighty federal government. The father and son sit in the manicured lawns of 11 Teen Murti in Lutyens Delhi. Over Earl Grey evening tea and cookies from Defence Bakery they converse on the way out of the flag imbroglio. For a mid-winter cease-fire plan.

An excerpt of their pie-in-the-sky conversation:

Omar: Everyone wants to plant a flag.

Farooq: January is the season of planting carrots.

Omar: Enough carrots, papa. Time for sticks. I can’t let them go planting.

Farooq: Spoken like a true blood.

Omar: Blood reminds me of summer and stones, papa.

Farooq: They have started calling us anti-national.

Omar: Heck. No one remembers what grandpa and you did for them.

Farooq: We kept the tri-color fluttering in Srinagar for decades.

Omar: And now this Gadkari comes from nowhere and decides to walk away with our glory.

Farooq: Tapael eiyes [untranslatable]. We are the flag-bearers. Not some half-moustache knicker-walla.

Omar: But won’t I look less patriotic if I stop them? What will Sonia ji think?

Farooq: If you don’t, the Azadi brigade has an issue ready for season 4 of the Summer Intifada. I can envision Geelani making snappy statements in his gown.

Omar: So who makes ‘this’ statement?

Farooq: Well. You are the CM.

Omar: You are more prone to high-octane dialogues.

Farooq: Is that a taunt?

The CM breaks a cookie into two and puts one half-moon piece in his mouth.

After an awkward pause.

Omar: Lets say, you pack a fair punch, pops. What are you going to say?

Farooq [a trifle pleased]: That we are more Indian than the Indians themselves. And our sole purpose of intercepting Gadkari is because we care. We don’t wish him to face what Murli Manohar Joshi had to.

[In 1992 in an effort to prove his ultra-nationalism Mr Joshi attempted similar defiance in Lal Chowk but the flag-pole broke as he tugged on the halyard: Reference New York Times, Jan 27, 1992. Headline: Airlifted Hindu Nationalists Fly India’s Flag in Kashmir].

Omar: I think you may need to be a little less dramatic.

Farooq: Farooq doesn’t care.

Omar: They will never make you the president of India. No consensus.

Farooq [uneasy]: You guys always put me in a spot. Mustafa is the best candidate to say all this. I am more of a strategy guy.

Omar: So what do we do about Yasin’s march?

Farooq: Conduct a police recruitment camp on Jan 26.


(Sameer Bhat is a middle-east based Kashmiri blogger and a free-lance journalist. He has written political blogs and essays on Kashmir for several leading publications. His poems have appeared in CounterPunch USA and Poet’s Basement)