Linguistics of a Kashmiri protest: From Persian to Arabic to Urdu to English, Kashmiris chant in all

Slogans encapsulate the aspirations of a nation. When aired in thin air, they resonate and linger on and on to give rise to legends.

These days, the most common affair in the Valley is a street protest. After last year’s pan-Kashmir uprising, people at the helm have their fingers crossed for a calm summer. But all they had so far this year is a hot spring.

The lowest ever turnout in parliamentary by-polls on April 9 was a watershed moment in the history of mainstream politics in the Valley, with the Government of India mulling to find some “out of the box solution” after the fiasco. For a face-saving, the government has postponed the Anantnag seat by-poll indefinitely.

This low turnout has rendered incredible strength to the voices in the street. Political pundits credit this historic low turnout to the young voices who made their point amply clear through non-violent means. They  have decided to not participate in elections and to “expose India’s brutal oppression under the fakery of democracy.”

How does a Kashmiri protest starts, by the way? It starts with a Persian word and then goes on to transcend linguistic boundaries.

The first ‘protest cry’ in a Kashmiri protest is the Persian world Na’rae, which means slogan. It is suffixed with Arabic word Takbeer, which means greatness.

So the protester shouts the “slogan of greatness” to kick-start a protest and the bandwagon goes on and on.

The gathering answers by shouting Allah-u-Akbar – Allah is the greatest. Then slogans, old and new, fill the air and the crowd swells the streets.

It is strange, however, that the language less used by the Kashmiris to chant slogans is their mother tongue itself. The reason is simple: Slogans are shouted to further the message to the outside world. That is the reason that the slogans are mainly in foreign language.

Hum kya chahtay? Azadi

This slogan reigns supreme in almost all protests in the Valley. Azadi is again a Persian language. During the Mughal rule, Persian was the official language in the region.

Then comes the Arabic slogans. The oft-repeated Arabic slogan in the Valley is Sabeeluna Sabeeluna: Al-Jihad, Al-Jihad. It encapsulates the global tendency of Muslim youth for the revival of Jihad. Another closely related slogan to this in Arabic is: La shariqiya wa la garabiya: Islamiya, Islamiya, which means: no to eastern (way of life), no to western (way of life): Only Islamic way of life.

Urdu slogans are the most commonly used in protests in Kashmir. Presently, Urdu is the official language of the state. Some protesters try to bring back the nostalgia of turbulent ‘90s decade by shouting the slogans that were used that time:

Aye Zaalimoon Aye Kafiroo

Kashmir hamara choud do

O Oppressors, disbelievers, leave our Kashmir!

But now the trend these days has completely changed. English slogans are now employed to draw attention of the international community. One slogan in particular is doing the rounds in protests, particularly in south Kashmir, these days: There is only one solution: gun-solution, gun-solution. This slogan sums up the collective wish of Kashmiri youth today.

Go India, Go Back is yet another slogan which finds its place in every protest.

The militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen now find its mention in street protests too often now. Recently, when school children took to streets in the heart of Srinagar, Lalchowk, the most shouted slogan was Aafreen Aafreen: Hizbul Mujahideen (Congratulations to Hizbul Mujahideen); Hum hain mujahideen: Hizbul Mujahideen. (We are all Hizb militants).

There are, however, particular slogans which are loved by some while hated by others. When a protester shouts: Is paar be laingay Azadi, Uss par bee laingay Azadi, (We will have Azadi for this part of Kashmir and that part of Kashmir, known as ‘Azad Kashmir’), this angers the pro-Pakistan protesters. However, nothing is said and done during the protest, as anti-India sentiments override all other sentiments.

There is still no love lost for Pakistan in the Valley, though there are certain sections who doubt its sincerity towards the Kashmiri cause. When a pro-Pakistan protester shouts Teri jaan meri jaan, the crowd profusely shout, Pakistan, Pakistan.

Rarely it happens that there is clash between the protesters as to which slogan to air and which not to. If at all there is some resentment shown by any section in the crowd about a particular slogan, there comes a shrieking voice from another section: Awaaz do: Hum aik hain (Cry aloud, we are all united). This puts everything aside and the protest is refreshed with Na’rae Takbeer.

Of late, little children have invented a number of derogatory and racist slogans with which they taunt the CRPF and Police personnel. It rubs the paramilitary forces badly and they most of the times answer back with profanities.

What 2016 uprising saw was the rise of a man who was later called as ‘freedom uncle’. Sarjan Barkati was not known much until he sang his famous Ye pellet bullet Na bhai Na.

But what was peculiar to Barkati was his Kashmiri slogans. His Kashmiris slogans struck a chord with almost everyone. Video after video were uploaded on social media showing little children imitating Barkati in sloganeering.

His slogans in south Kashmir held a voluminous crown in a trance-like situation. Choin Na’rae moun Na’rae Na’rae Takbeer, Eas karoon aazaad panun Kashmir (Your slogan, my slogan is the slogan of Takbeer, We shall make our Kashmir free).

Cut to April 2017, now when even girl students too have hit the streets along with boys, we may hear more new slogans in the streets of Kashmir, may be melodious ones.

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    By: Aasif Sultan

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