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19th November '2013
The Shylocks of Kashmir

Omar Abdullah recently called Syed Ali Geelani a “Dream Merchant” selling utopian dreams to the people of Kashmir. Selling dreams is no crime. People have been doing this for ages. He probably forgot that his predecessors as well as he himself too have been selling dreams but have been behaving like Shylock, the Jew in the play, the “Merchant of Venice”, with the same people. For these unrealisable dreams they have not only been demanding Shylock’s pound of flesh but have been practically taking it generation after generation. Well, Kashmiris had been dreaming of freedom and emancipation for centuries. They had been willing to follow anyone promising them to lead to that cherished goal. People suffering the worst kind of oppression for centuries are bound to catch at any straw which would save them from total annihilation. In spite of having faced repeated betrayals they still cherish a hope that someone may honestly lead them to the final goal. Their misfortune is that they have been getting not only the “Dream Merchants” but the cruel and merciless Shylocks of the “Merchant of Venice”. Sheikh Abdullah sold them the first dream in thirties. A “New Kashmir” where people would live with honour and dignity.

Like Bassanio, the young Venetian, Kashmiris wanted to woo “Azadi” who for them was like the Bassanio’s beloved Portia. They had no means to get her and needed assistance and guidance. Like Antonio, the merchant of Venice who was a friend of Bassanio, the Lion of Kashmir offered his help and guidance. He approached Pandit Nehru who was like Shylock, the Jew, who was a Venetian money lender. Sheikh Abdullah appeared sincere and did struggle hard to lead his people selflessly for some time. In fact, he faced incarceration because of this for a long time. But the Shylock cheated him. After having risen as a morning star on the horizon of Kashmir, he fell like a meteor!

In 1975, the Lion of Kashmir himself turned into a virtual Shylock and demanded his pound of flesh from Kashmiris for having woken them up from centuries of slumber regardless of the fact that he had led them into wilderness instead of their cherished goal of “Azadi”. He did take his pound of flesh and the gullible people gave it to him in spite of his somersaults. They still could not believe that he would ultimately leave them in the lurch. His progeny extracted much more and stuck like the blood sucking leeches. The Lion did have a soft corner for his people and died a very sad man pinning for what he had done to his people. But his progeny have no such qualms. They would not mind sucking every drop of blood from the Kashmiris and would still not be contented. Their greed is insatiable.

The story is no different with other leaders claiming to represent and fight for Kashmiris whether on the so called mainstream side or the opposite stream side! Each one in his own way is trying to extract a pound of flesh from the poor gullible people. Sometimes one wonders whether the people following these Shylocks are really gullible or they too are cleverly trying to extract a pound of flesh for themselves from the so called leaders. Delhi is the cleverest of all. It always takes a pound of flesh from every Kashmiri leader it props up. It has been the practice right from the time of the signing of the instrument of accession when Maharaja was exiled after the deed was done. Among the Kashmiris the first to pay for his deed to Delhi was the Sheikh Abdullah himself dethroned in 1953. The other side too extracts its pound of flesh from the leaders it supports monetarily or otherwise. They support and prop up only those who further their narrative.

How long will the Kashmiris have to endure the “Dream Merchants” and the Shylocks of the “Merchant of Venice”? Incidentally, Kashmir is popularly known as the Venice of the East and as such having Shylocks here is no big surprise! In the Shakespearean play the case about the pound of flesh demanded by Shylock was neutralised by Portia herself appearing in disguise as a lawyer in the court of the Duke of Venice. She asked Shylock to take the pound of flesh without spilling a single drop of blood and by taking exactly a pound no less no more! Shylock had no alternative but to drop his demand for a pound of flesh which he had set in the contract while lending the money. Will some Portia please come forward to rescue Kashmiris and free them from the Shylocks contract of a pound of flesh which in their case is the so called instrument of accession, the authenticity of which is even questioned by some people?

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