Kashmir has erupted again. However, the scene of the clash between various forces is not the streets of the Valley, but the 2017 calendars, through which contrasting narratives are sought to be disseminated.
It all began on New Year’s eve when state finance minister Haseeb Drabu unveiled the Jammu and Kashmir Bank calendar for the new year.
The calendar, which used to have photos of picturesque landscape of the region till now, featured 12 “achievers” from the state in different fields. Young sporting sensations Tajamul Islam (kickboxing) and Hashim Manzoor (karate), bureaucrat and civil services exam topper Dr Shah Faesal and artist Insha Manzoor were among those pictured.
The popular calendar, found in most Kashmiri homes, offices and shops, came at a time the Valley was slowly recovering from a five-month-long unrest. It instantly drew flak over its timing, choice of “achievers” and the supposedly underlying politics. Comments calling for its boycott flooded social media and many posted photos of torn calendars.
“Insha Mushtaq lost both her eyes to pellets and was maimed for life in July, but the state wants us to remember Insha Manzoor in the month of July. A cruel irony,” a senior journalist quipped.
Soon, on January 13, a pro-Azaadi social media group named Aalaw (call) released a “Resistance calendar” featuring pellet victims, youth killed in security forces’ firing, incarcerated separatists and slain militants.
The Aalaw calendar, available on the anonymous group’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages—features popular Hizbul Mujahedeen militant Burhan Wani, whose killing in July last year triggered the unrest, and his brother Khalid Wani, who was killed in April 2015.
It also has 15-year-old Insha Mushtaq who was blinded by pellets, jailed separatist leader Masrat Alam and the late founder of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Mohammad Maqbool Bhat, among others.
This calendar, designed similar to the J&K Bank one, was shared widely on social media and garnered popular support.
“We as ‘anonymous’ created & shared this calendar, but real heroes are those who courageously took a step forward, printed it out & proudly hanged it in their homes/shops,” wrote the group on Facebook, urging “all freedom lovers” print the calendar.
A local newspaper had reported on Sunday that the police have made six arrests for printing the calendar, but inspector general of police, Kashmir, SJM Gillani refuted the reports.
“Our cyber-cell is carrying out investigation to find out what is the source. It is a routine process that goes on. No arrest has been made in this case,” he said.
On Sunday, Aalaw shared the arrest report, and wrote, “Arresting and torturing innocents on our behest. Yet another fake cyber-encounter.”
They said they are beyond the “reach and jurisdiction” of law.
Hours later, the group said that if in case their page was “brought down by jingoist Indian Cyber police”, they would “as usual come up with a new page ASAP”.
“Our Twitter handler will also broadcast promulgation of our new page,” they said.
The “counter-calendar” released by Aalaw, although the most popular, is not the only one doing the rounds on social media. A single-page calendar featuring a large portrait of Burhan Wani was also shared widely.
In the battle of calendars, there is a third contender as well. The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) has released its own calendar with short profiles and photos of 12 missing persons.
On its release on January 10, the APDP had said in a press note: “We take a pledge that we will not allow the state to erase the memory of the disappeared persons. This calendar is an attempt to keep bitter memories alive.”
The APDP calendar comes a year after the body, in a first, produced a similar calendar commemorating disappeared persons.
In the calendar, the month of January features the story of Shabir Ahmad Gasi, a fruit vendor who was allegedly picked up by the Indian army in January 2000 and was never seen again.
Gasi’s family had filed cases in J&K high court and state Human Rights Commission, but till date no one has been prosecuted in the case. Frantically searching for her son, Gasi’s mother died a year after her son’s “forced disappearance”.