Friday, 30 May 2008

‘No school, no pen and no trouble’

‘No school, no pen and no trouble’
Dr Shabir Choudhry

Depending on how it is used, pen could be a powerful weapon. It could be more lethal than a bullet and it is precisely for this reason, at times, attempts are made either to buy off those with pen in their hands, intimidate them or in worst - case scenario exterminate them.

Instinct to control and subdue fellow human beings is part of human nature, and it is because of this powerful desire to control others, some people resort to extreme measures. History shows that some have controlled masses through use of brute force and others have made attempts to deny them education and knowledge as it is easy to control illiterate people.

People say knowledge is power and they are not wrong in this. Education and knowledge bring awareness, and not only help people to progress and make new inventions, but equip hem to fight for their rights. It gives them new hopes and new dreams, and open new avenues for them.

And those with dictatorial and aristocratic mindset make every effort to make people weak and vulnerable. People who have no education and knowledge, and are not fully aware of their rights are relatively easy to control because they don’t know their ability to fight back. This vulnerability is fully exploited by those who control the society, either as a ‘birth right’ or in the name of people.

Many years ago I saw a Pakistani movie where one aristocrat whose forefathers ruled this area with an iron fist, was facing a near rebellion situation. The young and inexperienced aristocrat got worried and asked for advice from his fellow aristocrat. This old aristocrat had many years of experience in ‘public relations’ and had very effective control over his people. He asked this inexperienced aristocrat to tell him details of his problems.

After carefully listening to his story the experienced aristocrat said, ‘root cause of your problem is this school and this teacher’. I warned your father about dangers this school will bring to your rule and dynasty, but he never listened to me. Look in my area there is ‘no school, no teacher and no trouble’. If you want to rule these people and want to ensure that they don’t challenge you, then you will have to deprive them of education and knowledge, and best way is to close this school and get rid of the teacher.

Even in the 21st Century there are parts of the world where there are no schools, no teachers and as a result ‘no trouble’ for those who run and control these areas. Many such areas exist in India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan are very important countries, but it is strange that leaders in this region don’t have to be educated. Just because they are ‘leaders’ they think they are ‘exempted’ from the following:
· Read on the current situation;
· Write on a topic that concerns public;
· Write to project a point of view’
· Or even give a written response to questions asked in letters personally addressed to them.

Some ‘good leaders’ have all the above qualities with the addition that they don’t have the ability to write, but they know how to talk and motivate people. They don’t like a system which has accountability and check and balance. Such culture is created where blind loyalty is expected of party members, no questions and opposition is tolerated. In ‘safety’ of this out of date political culture a ‘good leader’ is the one who does not consult and seek advice from anyone, as it would be considered as his/her weakness. Like hero of an Indian or Pakistani movie he is expected to know everything.

In a political culture and environment where discussion and logical argument is prohibited and wisdom is monopoly of a ‘leader’, how could society progress, how could ideas be refined, how could democratic norms flourish?

But can any one hold back change and progress in human society. Human societies have evolved over the centuries and this evolutionary process is not going to stop just because some of us are avers to new ideas and new thinking. Irrespective of our desires and attitude changes will take place, not only in other parts of the world but also in the area where we live in. It is therefore prudent to change with time and not to wait for revolutionary changes to brush us aside.

Like most other Kashmiris I was born in a forcibly divided and occupied country, in a society where right of expression is non existent, where individuals are encouraged to be subservient and loyal to those who oppress and occupy our homeland, and where civil society is non existent. In this kind of environment it is not easy for individuals to develop their full potential or have high level of integrity and national pride; or even distinguish between azadi (freedom) and ghulami (slavery).

But I was lucky that I came to Britain during my childhood, and even during my teenage years I knew I was living in a society where democratic values are strong and it is inherent right of every one to hold and express his/her opinion. Right of expression is a fundamental right of every human being and basic requirement of every democratic society.

A society deprived of this important right is a very unfortunate society, and every conscientious person should make effort to support democratic process, transparency and freedom of speech, rather than oppose it and help and support the status quo.

In Britain Labour Party is in power, and many Labour Members of Parliament strongly criticise their own Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on various policies, including his Iraq policy, but no one call them anti Britain, traitor, foreign agent or expel them from the Labour Party. They all work for the Labour Party, stay in the same party, oppose each other on different issues, and still respect each other as a loyal Labour member and above all loyal British citizen.

This is the fruit of a democratic and tolerant society. It is this environment which helps people to discuss and refine ideas and move forward. Tony Blair and his Cabinet has their own agenda, and they will pursue that, but they DONOT muzzle Labour Members, they will not expel or exterminate those who oppose them.

Almighty Allah has been very kind to me, He has made me human being, (best of His creation) He has given me brain to think and analyse things, He has provided me with an environment in which, unlike millions of other human beings, I educated myself; and above all He has given me ability to express myself in writing and not everyone is bestowed with this ability.

I am grateful for Allah’s kindness and mercy, and the best way to thank Him is to make use of my knowledge and education for the betterment of other human beings, and not to hold back truth for the fear of reprisals. I must use my education and know how to spread knowledge and make every effort to support individuals right of expression, and in doing so must not give into those who want to curtail my right of expression.

As noted above, pen is a powerful weapon and I have some experience in using it. I am not the best Kashmiri writer, but my writings and historical facts presented in my articles make many people uncomfortable; and for various reasons there are many who don’t want me to use my pen.

I am member of two political parties, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front of which I am founding member, and British Conservative Party. When I write something I write in my personal capacity, and DONOT act as a spokes person of either party or reflect their views.

To me I am doing a Jihad, and in this Jihad I have annoyed many influential people. These people have power and ability to destroy school building, get rid of the teacher and even break the pen or break fingers which hold the pen, but I am convinced that they will not be able to hold back the process of change and the revolutionary tide. And I want to be part of this change and revolutionary tide; of course there will be a price for this- but that is nothing new- haven’t I have been paying price through out my life.
Writer is a Kashmiri leader based in London and author of many books and booklets on Kashmir.

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