Calendar versus ‘Calendar’

  • Kashmir Ink desk
  • Publish Date: Jan 20 2017 8:21PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Jan 20 2017 8:21PM
Calendar versus ‘Calendar’

                                                              Illustration by Suhail Naqshbandi

Hurriyat’s protest calendar which shut the Valley down for over five months  has recently become a source of contentious debate in Valley. Sections of people are voicing their opposition to the hartal component of the calendar which is deemed to have brought the Valley to the brink of the economic collapse. But this has, in no way, created any sympathy for the narrative of the Government which is finding it difficult to move on from its record of human rights excesses during the unrest

 

By playing up the pictures of the youthful achievers on the state’s most  popular wall calendar, the government, in its wisdom, has quietly attempted to create an advantageous contrast with Hurriyat as an upholder of  ‘constructive pursuits’

On December 31,  the Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu  unveiled the much sought after annualcalendar of J&K Bank, the state’s premier financial institution, and it soon became the talk of the town. And later its pdf went viral on social media. 

The reason was the pictures of the twelve young achievers from the state it carried on its pages alongside the months of the year. The top page that goes with January has the picture of Tajamul Islam, the gold medallist at 2015 world kick-boxing championship and the December page that of Shah Faesal, the 2009 IAS topper.  The  pages in between  have the pictures of achievers from the three regions of the state – Kashmir Valley, Ladakh and Jammu.

But why should this make the calendar a hot topic of discussion and a must-see for the people? The reason is that it is widely perceived to have been implicitly pitted against the Hurriyat calendar which stipulates an elaborate weekly schedule of hartals and the protests. Until Hurriyat finally reduced the hartal to two days a week in the middle of December, Kashmir had observed more or less an uninterrupted shutdown for more than five months in response to the grouping’s call.

By playing up the pictures of the youthful achievers on the state’s most  popular wall calendar, the government, in its wisdom, has quietly attempted to create an advantageous contrast as an upholder of  constructive pursuits in comparison to Hurriyat, whose politics is thus deemed to lead towards destruction.

Drabu, a former J&K Bank Chairman,  said nothing in his speech that could position the calendar in opposition to Hurriyat protest roster but he did praise the communication skills of the bank, which is owned by the state government.   

“In terms of communication there is no better organisation in Jammu & Kashmir Bank nor shall there be any other organization better than the J&K Bank to do it,” Drabu said.  “I always believed that not only we (J&K Bank) communicate very well, we are also best fire fighters of the world”.

In fact, it was during his tenure as the chairman that he had upgraded the bank’s press cell to a full-fledged communication department.

Drabu termed the calendar as  an “intervention in social space” and underlined the fact that with a print order of 13 lakh, the calendar  will send a strong message when displayed on the wall of 13 lakh households.

But will it? Not necessarily. At least in Valley where the calendar is largely seen as an attempt to divert attention from the killings and  blindings in summer. In fact, on social media, there are already calls for a parallel calendar displaying the pictures of the killed and blinded in the unrest last year. And there have been many such attempts at mock-calendars on social media in which government calendar has been lampooned. 

“Hurriyat Conference should launch its own calendar comprising 2016 martyrs, with a minimum price of Rs 20,” posted Junaid Ahmad on Facebook.  “It will serve three purpose. One, as a mark of protest: People will use it at homes, shops and in offices as a mark of protest  Second, as a counter-narrative: It will be a befitting reply to those who are conspiring to spread false narrative. Third, the money collected can be utilized to take at least some of the blinded youth to a foreign country for treatment”.

Hurriyat faction led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani has also issued an annual calendar which, however, carries the injunctions from Quran.  “After all, why is it that you will not fight for the helpless men, women and children who have been subjugated because they are weak,” reads its top page.

Alongside the verse is the picture of United Nations with a caption: “The basis of our right to self-determination”.

True, Hurriyat’s protest calendar which shut the Valley down for over five months  has recently become a source of contentious debate in Valley. Sections of people are voicing their opposition to the hartal component of the calendar which is deemed to have brought the Valley to the brink of the economic collapse. But this has, in no way, created any sympathy for the narrative of the Government which is finding it difficult to move on from its record of human rights excesses during the unrest.

Also, in the ongoing Assembly session, a united opposition is ensuring that the focus remains on the killings.  In fact, NC leaders in the house repeated  the slogans  shouted by protesters during the unrest.

“Yeh pellet-bullet… na bhai na…yeh PAVA (crowed dispersing shells) Shava, na bai na…PSA Sarkar, na bhai na”,  the leaders shouted.

“The Government is hardly in a position to retrieve the lost public confidence in the near future,” says Naseer Ahmad, a local columnist. “The value of J&K Bank calendar is in the media news it has generated because of its perceived implicit political message. It might, however, resonate a bit among a section of people disillusioned with Hurriyat’s hartal politics”.