A Ghazal In Srinagar, Kashmir

Raashid Maqbool—poet, teacher, scholar, journalist, friend—recited the following ghazal to me in late December 2019 as we sat in his dusty car parked on the side of a main thoroughfare in Srinagar. We had, an hour prior, driven by a macabre spectacle that had left us both shaken and raw: a young man, about 25 years old, was being dragged by his long hair, his body bouncing against the rutted road as he flailed and screamed in protest. The Jammu & Kashmir Police officer dragging the man seemed impervious to his piercing shrieks, which had stunned the gathering crowd of onlookers into silence. As the young man was pushed into the back of a police van, pocked by years of pelted stones, Raashid and I watched along with the rest, frozen and helpless. There was nothing to be done, it seemed, except to keep driving, walking, going.

As Raashid slowly steered us away from the scene, the young man’s cries, hatai wai, hatai wai, echoed through the car. “See how we were all standing there,” Raashid finally spoke. “Nobody dares to raise their voice. This is what they’ve done to us.”

Much has been said and written about what was done to Kashmir and to Kashmiris after August 5, and what was done to them long before. Raashid’s ghazal manages to capture some of the finer points: the state’s endless stripping of consent from Kashmiris, the impossible choices it thrusts upon them, and the co-mingling of defiance and resignation that marks the current moment. There is more to say about the young man; about the ghazal form and the difficulties of capturing its nuances in English; and about the way Raashid and I labored over the verses via fleeting telephone connections, Ann Arbor to Srinagar. But let Raashid speak for himself.

Kaam jo chahiye kiya jaye
Naam achasa kuch diya jaye

Do whatever you like
Just give it a good name

Mar gaye hum, unhe khabar na hui
Ab kaho aur kya kiya jaye?

I died, he did not receive word
Now tell me, what more should be done?

Woh yeh chahte hai khush rahe, hum bhi
Zehr ka ghoont yeh piya jaye

He wants that I remain happy, so do I
So let me sip this poison

Apne haaton jo kaam tamam hua
Intiqaam kisse ab liya jaye?

From whom can I seek vengeance
When with my own hands I killed myself

Aaj tak kar saki na jo ghairat
Aaj har kaam woh kiya jaye

Today I can do everything
That my honor until now made impossible

Hum ko marne pe etiraaz nahin
Haan toh kame ka haq diya jaye

I do not object to dying
But at least give me the right to say yes

Ab toh ji ji ke mar gaya Raashid
Fatihah iska pad liya jaye.

In living so, Raashid died
Let his funeral prayers be read.

کام جو چاہیے کیا جائے
نام اچھا سا کچھ دیا جائے

مر گئے ہم انہیں خبر نہ ہوئی
اب کہو اور کیا کیا جائے

وہ یہ چاہتے ہیں خوش رہیں ہم بھی
زہر کا گھونٹ یہ پیا جائے 

 اپنے ہاتھوں جو کام تمام ہوا
انتقام کس سے اب لیا جائے 

آج تک کر سکی نہ جو غیرت
آج ہر کام وہ کیا جائے 

 ہم کو مرنے پہ اعتراض نہیں
ہاں تو کرنے کا حق دیا جائے 

اب تو جی جی کے مر گیا راشد
فاتحہ اس کا پڑھ لیا جائے 

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