Casteism in Kashmir: My observations and experiences

We usually shrug our shoulders when it comes to casteism in Kashmir. If you’re in a mood for horrible stories, go to Greest (peasants) and hear about the horror stories of how Malluh/Peer (upper-castes) used to treat them. If you think that’s not horrible enough then go to Naangaar (landless) and ask them how they were treated by other communities and still are. If you’re looking for more disgust then go to the Waatal community (Chamaar, also called Sheikh in Kashmir) and ask them about how they have always been ostracized from society. They have been ostracized to such extent that the word Waatul/Sheikh has become a taunt and is used to insult each other by people from other communities. There’s also Haaenz (fisher community) who have to face the ire of casteism. I don’t know anyone from the community personally, but since childhood I have heard the word Haaenz being used as a taunt/insult, and almost everyone in my village and others disparaging/disrespecting them. After you’ve done all that, come back to me and shrug off your shoulders again at the mention of casteism in Kashmir. I dare you!

Malluh/Peer stand at the top of caste-pyramid, then there are Greest, then come the Naangaar, then at bottom are the communities like Sheikh, Haaenz. Malluh have exploited everyone and maintained their position at the top through treachery, deception and lies. There is a common saying about them “Malluh deeshith goss parun istigfaar” which means, “if you see a Malluh, seek forgiveness from God”.

I was talking to a friend about Casteism in Kashmir yesterday and he said that, “Sheikh and Haaenz always lived in ‘ghettos’ and were ill-treated”. He then narrated an incident from his village where, “A person from Sheikh community was asked to dine with the head priest of the village (Malluh). He, unaware of Malluh’s presence in the gathering, ran away from the gathering, saying he will burn in hell if he shares the plate with the Imam (Malluh)”. Malluh have a notorious reputation for using religion for their personal benefits and for exploiting others. They have always used religion as a tool to maintain their position at the top of hierarchy. My friend further said that “He (Sheikh) was a lean old man, his family along with 3 or 4 other cobbler families lived on the fringes of our village. A notorious Galli (street) that was christened as Prem Galli by an Indian Army officer who would frequent the street to see girls and taunt them. The Galli continues to be known so.”

I also remember an incident when I was traveling in a train with two other acquaintances. One of them was a Kumar (from potter community, called Kraal in Kashmiri). They had a little fight over something and they started arguing with each other when suddenly the other guy told him, “Kraal chhukh naa, haawakh naa Karaaluh khasltat (You are a Kraal, and you’re showing your Kraal qualities).” I wasn’t surprised because casteist jibes are a norm in Kashmir and there is no stopping it.

In my own village there is a sort of ‘ghettoization’ of Sheikh community. All the Sheikhs from our village reside within a very small area with a huge density of homes compared to the other areas of village. They have small homes with almost no or very little space. I remember seeing new members of that community coming to our village and they would go nowhere else but find a place in that particular area to build their homes even when the place seemed almost filled up with homes. That area is called Sheikhpoor (Sheikh Mohalla), it’s sandwiched between a school and a road. It’s completely in contrast with the way other communities live in Kashmir with open spaces around their homes. It also gives us a clear picture of how Sheikhs or Haaenz are accepted by other communities. Coming to the Naangaar community, they get a little respite from casteism (compared to Sheikhs) because other communities are dependent upon them for their daily needs. Naangaar community includes skilled workers like carpenters, masons, barbers, bakers (kaandir), potters, blacksmiths etc. As I am from Greest family, so I know very well how they look down upon Naangaar, disrespect them and try to keep them under their foot.

Marriage between Malluh/Peer and others is almost impossible, there are numerous cases in Kashmir where Malluh/Peer citing their upper caste status refused to let their children marry in the lower castes. Greest and Naangaar getting married raises eyebrows and faces huge opposition. Sheikh/Haaenz community is totally ostracized and I’m yet to know about marriage ties with them from other communities. One of my friends (who’s from a Greest family) told me that she wants to marry a boy from Naangaar family. She asked me whether her parents will allow her. I said, “kyaazih nuh? (Why not?)” even when deep down I know that she’ll face stern opposition from her family. She told me that a relative of the boy, who’s also her family friend, told her to forget about the marriage as it will lead to tension between their families. I must tell you that this family friend is also a Naangaar and it was through his family that she met the boy. And now, when she will tell her family about the boy, all hell will be let loose first on their family friends and then on they boy’s family. For how dare a Naangaar boy try to ‘steal’ a Greest girl! There are many such cases where it led to bitter fights and broke strong friendships apart. Greest family can be best friends with a Naangaar family. It’s acceptable to have friendship but marriage ties between them leads to strong opposition and has the potential to wreak havoc. I know about a marriage between a woman from Naangaar family to a man from Greest family, it was an arranged marriage. When they got married, I used to hear a lot of people from Greest community saying “Yimav kyaazih korr Naangaaran hind? (Why did they marry him in a Naangaar family?)”. That woman has been taunted many times for being a Naangaar in a Greest family. But thanks to the religious views of that man’s family, the discrimination hasn’t been bad but the taunts will be there. After all it’s our bloody culture!

Let’s now talk about intelligentsia from Kashmir who talk about caste outside Kashmir but miserably fail to see the same in Kashmir. I personally haven’t seen a proper debate on casteism in Kashmir by anyone yet; anywhere, on media or even social media. I know Kashmiri guys who acknowledge existence of casteism and caste structures in various communities (outside Kashmir), but shockingly use casteist slurs freely in Kashmir. I was shocked to see these guys use terms like Haaenz/Waatul as an insult to others and when they are confronted about it, they are simply caught unawares about the casteist connotations of these terms. Mind you that these are the guys who claim to understand caste and claim to be sort of anti-caste warriors, and if that’s how they (supposedly enlightened and expert people) fail to see casteism in Kashmir you can only wonder about others, the common people. Talk to anyone in Kashmir about casteism, they simply shift the debate to India. They will talk about Dalits and Bahujans in India, but never ever have I heard anyone acknowledge it’s evil presence in Kashmir right under their noses. We love to live in denial!

The caste issue in Kashmir needs to be addressed, discussed and debated as it is: an evil monster that lives in our hearts. I don’t see a reason for feeling proud about Kashmiri heritage and culture when it has produced evils like Casteism. I don’t give a damn about what others things Kashmiri culture and tradition has produced, if it has produced an evil like casteism it’s more than enough reason for me to despise it for. Ours is a casteist society and I’m ashamed of it, I think we all should be. Further, I don’t understand the notions of ‘collective pride’, except when it’s a statement against oppression/oppressor.

P.S. As this is just based on my personal experience, there may be certain inaccuracies or I may have missed certain points of sensitivity regarding people from various communities or misrepresented them. If there is any such error or misrepresentation, please point it out. And a note to Malluh/Peer community: if you want to speak on this topic start with the acknowledgement of your casteist exploitation of other communities from centuries and how much you are ashamed of it. If not that, then please don’t try to say anything at all.

We’re also a highly racist society, I will leave that topic for you to reflect upon now and maybe we will talk about it another day.

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Internet: science, pseudoscience, and gibberish

The Internet, a boon of science, technology and research, brought with its advent a revolution, especially in the arena of knowledge and information. The sources of knowledge and information have grown so fast that it’s getting hard to catch up with the inflow. A good thing nonetheless, but it has brought with itself loads of crap that gets shared in the name of science. One gets to see all sorts of  crap, that sleazy human minds can ever come up with, being shared on the Internet. Everyone out there is seemingly armed with a hell lot of science/technology/knowledge to prove his beliefs that range from natural to supernatural/spiritual and way beyond. There are three things that we get in the name of science on Internet: actual science, pseudo-science, and pure gibberish. It’s hard to differentiate between pseudoscience and gibberish, heck, the way things get shared on Internet it becomes even harder to differentiate between science and gibberish. And we, the gullible people, have to face it all, swim in the sea of information where waves of so-called knowledge hit our poor brains, and then have to decide what’s worth being taken in. Here, I will talk about few (of the enormous) instances of pseudo-science and gibberish that I have come across on Internet, and further I will talk about how we should try to deal with it and how to know whether what we’re learning is science or not.

I constantly come across spiritual and spirituality related posts, and I constantly keep ignoring them, but I can’t when someone tries to relate scientific concepts like Quantum Mechanics with spirituality. I have read many such posts, and at the end I would just wonder, good graciousness, these fellows are really good at playing with the damn words! Trust me, if you would just go through the complex mathematics involved in Quantum Mechanics, you won’t just forget all the hullabaloo about spirituality but your body will even lose the ‘spirit’ after studying those weird equations, which I’m pretty sure you won’t be even able to read in the first go. There’s nothing spiritual about quantum mechanics, how can there be when the complexity of concepts and equations takes the soul out of you? Just ask those who are actually involved in the field of quantum mechanics. Believe me, whenever I try to study quantum mechanics I don’t feel that the state of my soul is getting elevated, I just get a frigging headache. And then there’s the poor relativity of time. If we have to mourn something let’s mourn the crucifixion of this concept of physics at the altar of logic each day. What people have made out of time-travel, thanks to science fiction and sci-fi movies, is a tragic story of gibberish being preached as science. I try to think about poor physicists who have to face such things being shared as theories of physics each day, those heartbreaks, we just can’t imagine! Then you have people talking about science in their religion and their religious books, and everyone around you trying hard to interpret their religious texts in a certain way so as to fit them in some of the existing scientific theories. It’s done on such a scale that it seems like every religious book out there was actually a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

I would like to specially mention the pseudo-science and gibberish being shared in the name of computer science because that’s my own field of interest and work. Again the sci-fi movies and some self-proclaimed ‘higher-science’ websites have created a very distorted version of various concepts/theories of computer science in the minds of people. When we start talking about Artificial Intelligence, people start coming up with weird interpretations. They just instantly start talking about robots who are mechanical equivalent of human beings, that’s the only interpretation most people come up with. Or they would start talking about the upcoming war between robots and human beings that’ll wipe humanity out of existence, which thanks to some ‘scientists’ is getting a lot of unwanted promotion. This is outrageous, we are yet to develop a machine that can pass the Turing Test, and we are already talking about a frigging imaginary war that these damn machines will start against us! Artificial Intelligence is simply intelligence exhibited by machines, it can range from doing basic things to extremely complex functions. We have self-driving cars, game systems, and data interpretation as various forms of Artificial Intelligence. There were few technologies that were once considered to be under the definition of Artificial Intelligence but not anymore, because as time passed we realized that those were just ‘mechanical functions’ lacking any sort of intelligence. Nowadays we keep hearing about scientists trying to replicate human brain by uploading it into a machine. This is absolutely funny, this is hilarious! We haven’t even been able to map the brain structure completely, how can anyone talk about uploading it? Let’s say you have mapped the brain structure completely, how are you going to store it in the form of memory? Are you going to store the brain structure in storage devices like hard-disks or flash drives? Are you going to use one of the existing structures of databases to do that, really? Are you that naive? If you have developed a new  a new structure of databases why aren’t you talking about that first? If no, how’s it then going to function like a brain? And how do you think will a brain work without input from all the sensory organs that are there in a normal human body? I am surprised that those people who share such things don’t think about these basic questions. Let’s just go a bit further and assume that the brain in stored in memory in such a form that we can make it work like an actual brain. But, here comes the very basic question. Do you have enough processor power/speed and enough memory power/speed to make a machine work like an actual brain? The answer is simply no. We’re nowhere close to such processor/memory power and speed that is required to make an artificial human-brain. There is a huge gap between processor and memory speed due to which low memory speed acts as a bottleneck and we aren’t even able to solve it and fill that gap yet. Even if we wish to develop such a brain-system we first need to address the very basic scientific/technological issues, which unfortunately and surprisingly these guys don’t talk about.

One comes across numerous such instances each day where we have to put up with trash shared in the name of science. Those are just a few instances of strange things being shared on the Internet and then through the eternal human gossip-chain. I think a lot of people have already tried to debunk the farcical things being shared on Internet, but they still keep spreading like a plague. Now, the issue is how to deal with such a huge inflow of gibberish and pseudo-science. The basic thing is to think, to question, not be idiots (well, that’s hard for most of us). Don’t accept everything you find on Internet as some sort of fact. If we find something new on Internet we should try to look up for counter-views about that. We just need to gauge the validity of these new theories on a scientific scale, that keep popping up on the Internet.  If we want to learn science, we should try reading actual science text-books, and listen to professors/scientists that actually exist in the real world, we shouldn’t just listen to these ghosts and their ghost theories on Internet. And there’s no dearth of authentic resources on Internet, we just need to be observant and have a keen-looking eye and a keen mind.Wikipedia, that’s one place where we get authentic science knowledge for free, but shockingly a lot of people keep speaking against it, even when they don’t understand the very basic functioning of this website. In case of science, technology, and related information we can easily trust Wikipedia. There are lots of other websites and science forums,  we just have to keep looking with an inquisitive mind we will find a lot of authentic and genuine web-based science resources, and always remember: don’t fall trap to pseudo-science or gibberish! 

P.S. There’s a very high possibility that even I might have shared some pseudo-scientific nonsense or gibberish in the name of science. Talk about the curse, it affects all! 

My spring isn’t too far away

​I will write a thousand eulogies,

To mourn the death of my garden.

Where the flowers had bloomed,

Only to be crushed by the cold wind.

The wind took life out of my garden,

But it didn’t kill me,

While I breathed the same air.

The flowers died, it seems,

Out of my own indifference!

Now, in the season of withered leaves,

And dried-up thoughts,

I will paint my garden green,

And the flowers of my imaginations

Will bloom again.

Life is coming back to my garden,

Riding upon the winds from mountains.

I can feel the winds of life,

My spring isn’t too far away.

Not for me

My pen disdains my command,

The ink refuses to ooze out into words,

And the paper rejects my lines!

They want to speak to the world,

Narrate stories that have been left unsaid,

Not mine, but their own, their very own!

They want to speak for themselves,

They seem to have their own stories,

Not for me, today, not for me!

Scars of democracy!

In the dead of night,

Descended the angels from heaven,

Assigned to protect me!

They marched around my village,

And barged into my home,

Oh, so gallantly!

Those security forces,

Marked their presence,

Through marks of protection and security!

My body marked by gun-butts, sticks, and rods,

And now I’m safe and secure,

From hatred, enmity, and vulnerability!

As I’ve been marked,

By beautiful scars on my body,

Scars of love, peace, and democracy!

P.S. The poem is about night raids by Indian forces in Kashmir where they barge into houses and beat the inmates mercilessly. These night raids and beatings have been a common phenomenon in Kashmir since 90’s, and are done to scare and intimidate people. The pictures below are from a recent incident which happened at Khrew, Pampore where army personnel went into the village and acted like savages killing one young man and injuring many, some of whom have been hospitalised!

Picture source: Rising Kashmir.

The stories of our love

Our stories,
The stories of our love,
Have been lost.
Somewhere,
In the sounds of bullets,
In the cries of war!
Each wound,
Each hole,
Each cut in the flesh,
Speaks of our love.
The unspoken love!
I can hear,
The love crying out,
From the moans on streets!
I can see,
The love pouring out,
From the gushing blood stream!
Is it still there
Or has it drowned,
Deep in the river of dead?

‘Bomb!’

Kashmris have a unique ‘bomb’ way of mocking! You often get to hear these ‘bomb’ sentences from your parents, friends, relatives or others if they feel you have been doing some futile work or wasting your time or when you are late for some work or you haven’t been doing your work properly, or if you try to dodge their questions, or if they feel you are lying to them. They’ll say:
“Che kuss bomb banoawuth waen?” (Have you made some bomb now?).
“Chu kuss bomb oasukh banaawaan?” (Were you making some bomb?).
“Che kuss bomb oasuee banaawun?” (As if you had to make some bomb?).
“Zann oasukh khabar kuss bomb banaawaan?” (As if you have been making some bomb?).
I don’t know how this ‘bomb’ got into Kashmiri vocabulary. Maybe it has got something to do with the armed conflict in Kashmir or maybe something else. But, the ‘bomb’ surely does make the perfect impact when it’s used against you!
We also have “Tum kaunsi toaf ho?” in Urdu (Toaf here is the urdu ‘toap’ which means cannon. We, Kashmiris, pronounce it as toaf), but it doesn’t have that much of the mocking power as that of the ‘bomb’ in Kashmiri. Seems like language is the only place where the ‘bomb’ beats the ‘toaf’ in terms of the destructive power!
Bomb seems like a weapon of mass destruction that can be used anytime against you when you are arguing to defend yourself. And they never have to detonate it, they just have to say it and ‘Kaboom!’, all your counter-arguments are lying in pieces.
P.S. Only Kashmiris will understand the pain this ‘bomb’ can cause.

Through uknown ways . . .

Through unknown ways,
I made
My rough journey
Easy.
From here,
I could clearly
See
My destination:
I walk
For the sake of path;
A path
Is meant to be trodden.
That’s how
I find
My way.
I create a path
With each step
I take.
I will keep walking
Through jungles and streets,
In the rain storms
And the scorching heat.
New and strange
To feet,
Rough and smooth paths,
Yet silent
To beat.
I will keep carving
My way,
Through cliffs and gorges.
These challenges,
They can’t make me give up
And declare defeat.
On the way,
I find everything bowing down
With sincere greet.
Chirpy birds,
Singing welcome songs
On the branches,
So sweet.
Each step of
The journey,
I’m crossing with freet.
Until,
I will end
My journey
Without feat.
The mountain breeze,
Soothes
My sore feet.
The path,
Sings
The song of the way.
And I,
Flow
Like a soft musical beat.

~ Malika Rushda & Mudasir Ali Lone

image

Photo Credits: Malika Rushda

Photo Credits: Mudasir Ali Lone

Photo Credits: Mudasir Ali Lone

Let’s feel . . .

Let’s breathe the shade of Chinar, covered under the waves of sunlight,
Let’s smell the bright fragrance, concealed in the aroma of sunshine,
While listening to the music of love, which moves through the sound of leaves.
Let’s feel the touch of our presence, lying on the grass amidst the mighty trees,
Singing the songs of merriment and delight, along with the winds to make a sweet melody,
Relishing the moments of bliss in the enchanting surroundings of serenity.
Let’s dream about the beauty which manifests itself in green and blue,
Perceiving the colors of nature, which have a mesmerizing hue.
Let’s spin the intricate verses of the poem of beauty,
From the red rays of the winter sunset and the white summer sun.
Let’s experience the ecstatic joy amidst the peaceful breeze,
Let’s be bewitched by the magic of our eyes on the charming scene.

Img_01

Photo Credits: Malika Rushda

IMG-20150801-WA0001

Photo Credits: Malik Haroon

Paradox

Dungeon of billion desires, blurred lines from a misted tale.
Slight sound of breath, a sigh that sounds so pale.
Thirsty ears long for the songs, the sounds of heartbeats.
Life cannot exist, without music on the streets.
What does your vision produce, without the trancing rays?
“Darkness of silence, deafened in the shadow of haze.”
Senses feel ecstatic, in the moment of silence between the drum beats.
The sounds are heard in silence, beneath the blank sheets.
The white snow looks so dark, in the darkness of night.
Colors, deceitfully beautiful, are an illusion of the light.
The lies beneath the truth, truth is an outward faux.
Everything is anything, reality is a paradox.