KASHMIRIS ONCE AGAIN
New Lexicon of the Kashmiris authored by B.L Saraf is a marvel in the sense that a man from the judiciary has given a unique lexicon in which he defines some political terms in a new style. It is a dictionary in which different snippets have been arranged in alphabetical sequence. The title of the book shows that the author has, all the Kashmiris professing different faiths, except Sikhs and Christians, on his mind. There are 150 snippets which are aphoristic in style.. He centres round the political, social and historical events that took shape in Kashmir among the Muslims and among the Pandits scattered throughout the world. The painting on the cover Apprentice by Modigliani can be interpreted as a Kashmiri in a pensive mood because the texture of his life has made him extremely sad.
The dedications are very pathetic and reflect the tragedy of old Kashmiri Pandits abandoned in old age homes and alone. Saraf writes: “ For the eighty-two-year old widow Sampkuji living in a well furnished flat in a posh locality and her two-sonsthe citizens of US now- who are extremely happy that the young maid Salochana looks after their mother very well.
“And for the septuagenarian Gopi Nath who, in an old age home, is waiting for his end.”
The Preface to the book is short and concise. In it Saraf has put forward his purpose behind writing this book. He says: ‘The line between the opposites has disappeared. The text of life has changed. So has the context.” The author blames the politicians and the so-called makers of human destiny for the mischief and mess that they have engineered to serve their purpose. Saraf is conscious of the changing attitudes of the Kashmiris.
Militancy and terrorism were born in Kashmir in 1989-90 when there was total disruption, chaos and anarchy. The irony is that the meanings of various words have undergone a change for the worse.
The definitions in the book show that Saraf has eagle’s eye to observe situations that one normally ignores and does not pay attention to. The author has deep sense of humour for he laughs at an event or a happening and his laughter contains a mixture of satire, irony and wit. His observations of the political and historical events reflect his comic sense and the ability to discover things objectively. The book tells us that the author is well-informed, knowledgeable and possesses a keen sense of Kashmir history. He is interested in the Kashmiris of all hues (except Sikhs, Christians, and state subject Rajputs and other Hindus) and their acts of omission and commission. Most of the definitions are bitter and call a spade a spade. They shatter the reader because he finds his own actions being enacted before him. Here we come to know that there is pain, anguish and agony in the heart of Saraf. His soul is tormented and this torment comes out gushing like molten lava which engulfs all the Kashmiris---- Muslims as well as Pandits. No doubt, the reader gets annoyed but his anger is the transformed feeling of his misdeeds. Saraf actually weeps over the predicament of a Kashmiri, he feels for his lot, he sympathises with his condition but the tools that Saraf has used are brevity, wit and satire. The greatness of Bushan Lal Saraf lies in his unbiased approach to the various issues depicted in the book. He is truthful, hard-hitting, straightforward, honest and fearless. Some definitions are no doubt, very provocative but the beauty lies in their truth. And truth as we all know always bites.
Saraf in Snippet (1) defines Accession as:
1. Amalgamation of shared values
2. Usurpation of the basic rights of the weak by the powerful.
This literary piece comprises the history of a political deed done long back by the then ruler of Jammu and Kashmir and the Government of India. This definition shows the immaturity and lack of foresight of the world acclaimed statesman and politician and the consequences thereof faced by the Kashmiris.
Snippet (3) reflects the sad plight of every Kashmiri Pandit who is asked to prove his identity. He is also forced to prove that h4e has not ceased to exist. Here “The Refugees” by W.H.Auden surfaces one’s mind where the German refugee is informed that in spite of the fact the he is breathing individual but his name not being on files is taken officially dead.
Snippet (4) “Alienation” very appropriately applies to the power structure in the Jammu and Kashmir State which clearly states that when a particular political party is not in power it cries that the entire Kashmiris are an alienated lot and thereby use it as a weapon of political blackmail.
Snippet (8) “Article 370” is a brilliant piece of satire. It exposes the mindset of the rulers of the Jammu and Kashmir State. They, when asked to account for their misdeeds, take refuge in controversial and much talked about Article 370.
Snippet (13) “Catch and Kill” exposes the corruption of the people supposed to give their countrymen their today for their tomorrow. Here, Saraf has not spared the security forces.
Snippets 19 and 20 titled “Corruption” and “Cordon” are very appealing and thought provoking. These two snippets demonstrate overwhelmingly the absolute corrupt practices at their highest pitch whether at the political or bureaucratic or defence levels.
Snippet 29 “Dual Currency” exposes all those leaders who exhibit green handkerchiefs to capture power.
Snippet 43 “Gerrymander” is highly comical and shows the attitude of the Kashmiri Pandit leaders who talk of the Habbakadal constituency to be shifted to Jammu.
Snippet 50 “Homeland” speaks volumes about the sad plight of the Kashmiri Pandits and the political viewpoint of their leaders. In his characteristic satirical style Saraf says “homeland” is “home without land.”
Snippet112 “Prisoner of Conscience” is a reflection on the pseudo intellectuals who call the merchants of death and destruction “Prisoners of Conscience” or “Nelson Mandela”.
Bushan Lal Saraf has in his wonderful and characteristic style talked only about politicians, Kashmiri Muslims, Kashmiri Pandits, Security Forces and all others, but he has no words for Kashmiri Sikhs. They also were killed in cold blood in Chattisinghpora and other places. He has not talked about their leaders at all. He has completely ignored the Kashmiri Pandit origin Catholic Christians and some patriotic Muslims who also took to their heels from the valley under the thunder of guns after seeing their co-religionists killed in cold blood. Saraf has no words for non-Kashmiri Rajputs and some Punjabi Hindus who are state-subjects. They were the first targets of loot, plunder, arson and rape on July 13, 1931.
Some headings of the snippets are extremely difficult to comprehend because the words are bombastic. Those are not words of common usage.
B.L.Saraf has concern for the Kashmiris and suggests that things gone wrong can be set right. While Saraf is critical of the wave of inter-caste marriages that has swept the Kashmir Pandit community, he is silent about the neglect of Kashmiri language by the Kashmiri Pandits particularly the young girls and boys.
Saraf is honest in acknowledging the greatness of Arvind Gigoo’s “The Ugly Kashmiri” which contains brilliant paradoxes, masterpieces, aphorisms and mindboggling cameos. They make a reader stop and ponder for a long time to grasp their hidden meanings. That book is a classic. Saraf’s A New Lexicon of the Kashmiris has proved that Arvind Gigoo’s book is a trend setter. Saraf’s aphorisms are no less in quality and the meaning they convey. This New Lexicon is a commendable work in this direction. Each snippet of Saraf is a fine cocktail of comedy, satire and tragedy. The reader laughs over his own tragic situation.
A New Lexicon of the Kashmiris is an important book which every Kashmiri watcher should read and ponder over. It is a significant book for all whether Kashmiri or non-Kashmiri.