Guest post by HILAL MIR
During the convention, Azadi the only Way, at LTG auditorium on Thursday, a potbellied man was standing on the aisle, listening intently to the speech of professor of history at Jadavpur University Sugata Bhadra. The man, I reckon, might be easily burdening earth with nearly 130 kilograms of his fair, north Indian bulk. The professor was stripping the Indian state to its bare minimum and the audiences clapped. The man could stand it no more. I soon found out his voice was equally weighty, and gravelly—a cross between Shatrugan Sinha and Kulbushan Kharbanda. Quite audibly he said jis thali ma khatey hai usi main chaid kartey hain. In Bollywood films this saying condemning treachery is reserved for domestic helps who fall in love with the pretty daughters of their employers. Here, the context was different. A Maoist sympathizer was sharing the dais with a Kashmiri pro-freedom leader who was sharing the dais with a Sikh secessionist who was sharing the dais with a Naga human rights defender…A veritable thali of secessionism and dissent indeed. No wonder Arnab Goswami was hysterical.
But it brings us to the question of thali in the first instance. My Kashmiri Pandit brethren will bear me out, the concept of thali is an alien concept to any self-respecting Kashmiri. Till a few decades ago, the Kashmiris ate out of earthen pots which bear not the remotest similarity to the shallow Indian thali. And when they acquired some affluence they used many types of vessels: from copper toor which could be so deep that you had to immerse half of your arm to scoop out the last grains of rice, or atrami that is half a metre in diameter, with four hungry men around it relishing 15-course all- meatwazwan on a mound of purely Kashmiri sticky rice. The patriotic lamentation of the man doesn’t quite fit Kashmiris at all, even in its figurative sense.
But there must be something inherently wrong with the thali that drives people to burn a hole in it while deriving sustenance from it. The Sikh who lives in the grain bowl of India and probably contributes most of what is placed in the thali is disgruntled. The tribals in forests of Dantewada, who don’t have the luxury of the thali in the first place and often feed on grubs for survival, believe the empty thali that mocks at their hunger is fit for bullets shot from a desi katta. A Naga convincingly has come to believe the thali has no space for canine flesh he loves. The mere thought of it is repulsive for most Indians. It almost makes him sub human; hence the hate attacks on people from the so-called northeast. Already, there is a government campaign to send Naga soldiers to Kashmir and other troubled parts and simultaneously create an aura of cannibalism around them. Kashmiri grapevine is flush with rumours of dogs disappearing from the neighbourhoods when Naga soldiers are deployed or the soldiers persuading people to dispose of their aged family members for food. I heard stories of how Kashmiri soldiers were cruelly treating people in the so-called northeast. Unleashing one set of oppressed people on the other so that in the end they come to blame each other, not the scheming Chanakyas in New Delhi.
But the politics of the potbellied man was clear a la RSS. There is no more a Tamil or Gujarati, north Indian, Jain or Marathi thali. It is a homogenized steel plate of Akhand Bharat forged by Mittals and Jindals and Ambanis.
To break this myth, now is the time Kashmiris offer their tramis for Nagas to have dog steak in and ask struggling tribals to share wazwan. Let Delhi have its thali.
Also by Hilal Mir: Bovine Intervention