On Sunday morning, I started reading Mirza Waheed’s debut novel The Collaborator. The novel is a poignant, moving tale of love and betrayal, brutality and violence in the backdrop of Kashmir conflict. Set in early nineties, it shows the inhumane face of the on-going battle in its initial days. Born in that period I have heard many stories. It was second time that I was reading about those turbulent times again. The reading presented an almost exact picture of the time in which I was born.
The narrative of novel is gripping so it was obvious to read it in one stretch. Starting in the morning and putting it down at late night. When I finished it, I was asking myself many questions under the quilt. Kadian: how he might have looked? Did he show compassion when he killed those young boys? Why did Hussain betray the unnamed hero? I tried to answer. Why was Baba so stubborn? I tried to figure out.
The novel has such an impact on me that after reading it, I think its impression won’t leave my mind easily. If I could ever meet the author of the novel, I will ask only one question:
“What happened to the collaborator after he offered Nimaz-e-Jinazah to the martyrs of the land?”
The novel provides minute details about the protagonist. Wrote in first person, it weaves other characters so well which gives intimate details about them. Making it more interesting.
The protagonist, a nineteen-year-old boy is portrayed so well that I thought he would come out of the novel next moment and talk to me. His love for his friends and parents is undefined and at the same time his loyalty to the army captain; this binds the book in a tragic way. However, he never seems to love his job but it is the fear and love for his parents that makes him to do so.
The novel also narrates some heart-breaking moments. The chapter ‘The Milk Beggars’ is one among them. But the chapter which really occupies my mind is ‘Kafila’. It is the village exodus, which makes the human heart to bleed. It is written in a subtle way but extremely powerful. I wept when I read this chapter. How conflict can render people homeless cannot be written in a better way.
After reading the book, I felt the helplessness of the main character. I could feel why he was loyal to his job, though hating it at times. I could feel his pain of being betrayed by his friends. I could feel his loneliness. I could feel how gruesome it was for him to do his assigned job for the captain. I could feel how much he loved his mother. I could feel his hatred for the Captain. I could feel the novel.
The other day in the morning I took a newspaper and read news that Syed Ali Geelani, pro-Pakistani leader has declined to participate in the high profile India Today Conclave, citing some weird reason. “I will not share the stage with any Indian government official until our five point proposal is accepted.”
Ironically, the India Today conclave is to be convened by national security advisor, Shiv Shankar Menon held from 18 March in New Delhi.
The newspaper report also says that Geelani had to discuss the topic ‘Kashmir: What Next?’ with RSS chief Mohan Bhagvat also present there. It could be a great discussion for we know Geelani is a great orator. Moreover, God knows, only God knows, may be RSS chief would have changed his stance over Kashmir.
But, but, but Geelani had other ideas in his mind. India today conclave as we know garners good response from the civil society. It is the meeting point of high minds as we have seen in previous years. From state heads to spiritual leaders, business tycoons to literary geniuses to high profile politicians, it brings all of them under one roof. Kashmiri separatist leaders are also not behind, a couple years ago Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, chairman, Yasin Malik had also participated in this conclave.
Geelani had a golden chance to put his ideology in the civil society. But he missed it due to his stubbornness. I respect Geelani’s ideology and thinking. It was a private event and there is nothing wrong if Geelani could share the dais with some government officials. It could be an official beckoning to the government of India though unofficially as government had a representative in the event.
It is share stubbornness on the part of Geelani not to participate in the event. I fear the already biased Indian media will take this (not participating) as a show of cowardice from Geelani. It will show, rather confirm that he had not enough guts to discuss Kashmir with the right wing organisations who are mainly anti-kashmiri. It will send wrong messages throughout India.
At the same time, a national newspaper gave Geelani the 25th rank in “the most powerful Indians”. We can say that, yes,
Geelani has a say in India though he never calls himself an Indian. Now it has become easier for me to draw parallels between ‘The Collaborator’ and Geelani.
As the unnamed hero of the book loves his parents, friends, and village so does Geelani. He loves Kashmir and its people too. The unnamed hero is a confused coward; he can’t kill Captain Kadian nor can speak his mind to him. We can see in the novel that when Kadian uses abuses against Kashmiris, the hero gets disturbed and hates his boss. So does Geelani, he can’t kill India (of course) and as we can see (His rejection to attend ITC) he can’t also speak his mind.
The unnamed hero is powerful and is respected in the whole village so is Geelani.
The unnamed hero speaks against Kadian in isolation so does Geelani. He speaks against India in his own backyard (most of the times).
The friends of the unnamed hero are blamed for the mayhem in the village so is Geelani, his unnamed friends are also blamed for the mayhem in this turbulent place.
The unnamed hero receives unwanted gifts from the army so received Geelani in the past and some claim he still receives. (Read the salary and pension which Geelani draws from the state for his stint as MLA)
The unnamed hero and his parents are blamed for receiving funds from the Indian government so follows Geelani.
As I was reading, every sentence I read I pictured Geelani at the core of the novel. The author has done a great job by keeping the hero unnamed. For me, it is Geelani. But one question that baffles me, ‘what will Geelani do in the end?’ Will he just do the same as the hero of the novel did? Cremate the martyrs of the land. ‘I wish not.’
Our hero of the novel was an unwilling collaborator. What is Syed Ali Shah Geelani?
“You know, what I mean.”
Iymon Ganaie is contributing writer for The Kashmir Walla.