Balvinder Kaur/Exploring the Issue of Terrorism through Shalimar the Clown

Balvinder Kaur (Research Scholar)

Department of English

Lovely Professional University

Supervised by: Dr. Yashdeep Singh

Salman Rushdie, the controversial writer of ‘Satanic Verses’ writes about the post- colonial reality of the Indian subcontinent. In 2005 he published his novel ‘Shalimar the Clown’ which deals with the global phenomenon of terrorism especially in Kashmir. Hence the purpose of this paper is to identify and explore the issue of terrorism and demonstrate its reflection in ‘Shalimar the Clown’ through insurgency, crackdown and exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. The loss can be seen from both sides. In any of the case only the common people have to suffer whether it can be a terrorist attack or a way to control the terrorism. Through this paper we also see how revenge makes a man terrorist who later on becomes the cause of killing of people and then suppression becomes the cause of crackdown.

Salman Rushdie, the controversial writer of Satanic Verses writes about the post-colonial reality of the Indian subcontinent. After his first novel Grimus, he won several awards for Midnight’s children. In 2005 he published his novel Shalimar the Clown which deals with the global phenomenon of terrorism especially in Kashmir. The novel not only debates terrorism but also the Indian state’s military presence in Kashmir through the psyche of the clown like Shalimar, who is a representative of a number of other terrorists. Shalimar the Clown extends his arguments about terrorist movements, insurgency, crackdown and its impact on individuals like exodus of Kashmiri Pandits by discussing terrorism. The regional and international impact on politics, cultures and identities can be seen through this article. It is Rushdie’s greatest work as it holds mirror to the burning problem of terrorism in the contemporary world. His portrayal of the terrorist can be seen as an individual before anything. Along with the theme of terrorism, the revenge tragedy is also depicted as they appear to be interconnected.

There is neither an academic nor an international legal consensus regarding the definition of the term terrorism. Thus different definitions are used by different agencies. Oliver libaw has talked about definition of terrorism in ABC News. He says that America may have declared a new war against “terrorism”, but no one is sure what “terrorism” is. In 2000, in a report on world terrorism the State Department said” No one definition of terrorism has gained universal acceptance”. In simple words we can say that terrorism is the use of violence by individuals or groups to achieve political goals. The terrorist violence takes the form of assassination of political leaders, kidnappings, hijacking, and bomb- blasts. Through these acts of extreme violence, the terrorists aim at creating panic and scare and oblige the state to bow down to their demands. These terrorist groups indulged in massive actions of murder, slaughter and assassination of political leaders. The novel depicts the story of America’s counterterrorism chief , Max Ophuls; his Kashmiri Muslim driver and subsequent killer, Shalimar; his distrustful wife and beloved Boonyi Kaul and Max’s illegitimate daughter India also known as Kashmira. The menace of terrorism, as it has developed and affected India has more than mere political reasons. The wave of terrorism in Kashmir was the product of complex reasons. Hence the purpose of this paper is to identify and exploring the issue of terrorism and demonstrate its reflection in Shalimar the Clown through insurgency, crackdown and exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. Hence in Shalimar the Clown globalization of terror has been shown brilliantly.

Shalimar the Clown depicts the story of rise of terrorism and tragic love story of Shalimar and Boonyi. The story is about two Kashmiri villages of Shirmol and Pachigam. The people of these villages lead simple and peaceful life before rise of terrorism and area covered by Indian militancy. Muslims and Hindus used to live together and conflicts originate only over the best way to prepare a banquet. It may also be originated over the right way of performing the bhand pather (an ancient ritual dance). In the novel we see, Shalimar Noman is a young Muslim who is a tightrope walker falls in love with Hindu girl called Boonyi Kaul. The lovers get married and also receive the approval of society. Pachigam had helped to united them and their families. Before marriage Shalimar makes it clear to Boonyi Kaul:

“Don’t leave me,” he said, rolling over onto his back and panting for joy. “Don’t you leave me now, or I’ll never forgive you, and I’ll have my revenge, I’ll kill you and if you have any children by another man I’ll kill the children also.” (Rushdie 1995: 61)

Boonyi-Shalimar love story can be seen as a node through which another story opens- an act of ‘terrorism’. One is a love story ending with tragic and second murder of Maximilian Ophuls who was an American ambassador, in brutal manner. It starts with the coming of Max to Kashmir. Max was fascinated by the beauty of Boonyi Kaul. Boonyi was aware of it. It awakens a secret desire in Boonyi. Thus she eventually entraps Max through her seduction and leaves her husband behind. This makes Shalimar the revenge obsessed and sets his heart on killing the couple. The first story depicts Kashmir as a paradise with multicultural, multi-faith tolerance and harmony. The novel tells how personal experiences often bleed into political actions. As a result Shalimar becomes involved with a group of terrorists inspired by Al Qaida. The story also tells how an innocent lover turned murderous and avenger. The clownish performer can be seen transformed into a cold-eyed terrorist.

Years later Boonyi returns to her homeland. She was declared as dead by the villagers. But her returning sets a fire on Shalimar. He remembered his old promise of setting accounts with his beloved and her lover. The political scenario at the time had become worse dramatically and rebels were ganging up. Shalimar left the Pachigam and was not seen in village for fifteen years. Shalimar then joins a group of radical Islamists and learns the business of killing for a cause. Thus revenge carries the novel along to an expected but nevertheless harrowing climax of ghastly violence. When it burst out one was not murdered by strangers. It was our dear ones, the people with whom we had shared the high and low points of life. Shalimar exposed his feelings towards them by saying,

“For now and until freedom comes I’ll kill anyone you want me,” he said,” but yes, one of these days I want the American ambassador at my mercy.” (Rushdie 1995: 252). Thus finally he was successful for taking his revenge. Rushdie has given shocking description of the global consequences of human emotions such as love, betrayal and revenge. But it is not all about that. He thought he has wasted his time as a clown but now he will not waste his time anymore and joined JKLF.

Theo Tait in London Review of Books says that in Shalimar the Clown the ambition remains unchecked. It is a post-9/11 novel (another one!) which aims to describe the mind of a terrorist, as well as one of the most intractable territorial disputes in recent history: Kashmir. But that isn’t all, as Rushdie makes clear in an editorial-style insert about globalization:

“Everywhere was now a part of everywhere else. Russia, America, London, Kashmir. Our lives, our stories, flowed into one another’s, were no longer our own, individual, discrete. This unsettled people. There were collisions and explosions. The world was no longer calm.”(Rushdie 1995: 37)

The novel also makes to analyze how various new groups were growing up containing training camps like FC-22 and ISI was offering training of weapons including high precision sniper-killer training. It depicts how Lashker- e-Pak also known as Army of the Pure focused on certain aims including moral as well as political. LeP circulated posters ordering Muslim women to don the burqa and adhere to the dress and behaviourral principles laid down by the Taliban in Afghanistan. As a result Kashmiri women have to suffer for not obeying the posters. It can be seen in these lines from the text:

“In the months that followed the LeP grew bolder and moved its activities into Srinagar itself. Women teachers were doused with acid for failing to adhere to the Islamic dress code. Threats were made and deadlines issued and many Kashmiri women put on, for the first time, the shroud their mothers and grandmothers had always proudly refused. ” (Rushdie 1995: 277)

Rahul Pandita in the novel ‘Our Moon has Blood Clots’ also talks about the instructions made by the different organizations to be followed by the different communities:

“On June 23, 1989, pamphlets were distributed in Srinagar. It was an ultimatum to Muslim women, by an organization that called itself Hazb-i-Islami, to comply with ‘Islamic’ standards within two days or face ‘action’. Pandit women were asked to put a tilak (religious sign) on their foreheads for identification.”(Pandita 2013: 64)

It has seen before the influence of terrorism the people of both the communities used to live together. Life was normal going on. But with the passage of time situation goes on changing. Now there was not better understanding among the two communities. Differences were created. We see how Gegroo brothers play a role in creating difference between the two communities:

“Arre, how stupid can even stupid people be? Because even these useless dead Gegroos whom you were prepared to throw away like the corpses of dead dogs can work out that the people who burned your tent must be the same people you threw out of it, your Hindu brothers and sisters, whom you love so much you feel bad about what you did to them even though you didn’t give a damn about what you thought you did to us, and you still don’t get it, you don’t see that the Hindus who set the fire,… ” (Rushdie 1995: 287)

Salman Rushdie not only talks about the terrorism in his novel but also about the behavior of Indian militancy towards the people of Kashmir. Then he also talks about the Political echelon. The term Echelon means a body of troops arranged in a line. The character of the political echelon had changed. The political echelon declared Kashmir a “disturbed area”. “In a disturbed area, search warrants were not required, arrest warrants ditto, and shoot-to-kill treatment of suspects was acceptable.”(Rushdie 1995: 290).The security forces imposed curfew to control violence. The faces of soldiers betrayed anger and hate. It would be relevant here to quote the following passage from the text:

“The political echelon had sent word. Every Muslim in Kashmir should be considered a militant. The bullet was the only solution. Until the militants were wiped out normality could not return to the valley. General Kachhwaha smiled. Those were instructions he could follow. ” (Rushdie 1995: 291)

People have started believing in Azadi (freedom). The insurgency was pathetic. It fought against itself. Half of it was fighting for Kashmir for the Kashmiris, while the other half wanted Pakistan, and to be a part of the Islamist terror international. “He would see how much these people loved their insurgency then, when they had the Indian army fucking them in the crack” (Rushdie 1995: 292).The insurrectionists would kill each other for their motives.

“In the aftermath of the Muslim insurgency against Indian rule another pandit was murdered in Tangmarg. Posters appeared on the road leading from Srinagar to Pachigam demanding that all pandits vacate their property and leave Kashmir. ” (Rushdie 1995: 294)

The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits can also be seen through the eye view of Shalimar the Clown. The people were ready to leave their ancestral homes due to the violence of militancy. Hit lists were prepared by the militant outfits. The hit list contained names of the Muslims and Pandits to be killed. How they were compelled to leave their homeland. “Kill one, scare ten. Kill one, scare ten.”(Rushdie 1995: 295). Warnings were given to Pandits to leave the Valley immediately by the terrorists. Due to the fear of deaths exodus began. Almost the entire pandit population of Kashmir, fled from their homes and headed south to the refugee camps. Although there were several Indian troops in Kashmir but they were not able to prevent this exodus that was a question itself. The exodus of Kashmiri pandit community is well framed by Siddhartha Gigoo in ‘The Garden of Solitude’.

“The situation will not improve. A secret message has come to the Pandits to leave Kashmir. Nobody can guarantee our safety and security any longer. We have been promised safety in Jammu. ” (Gigoo 2011: 46).

The people were scared by the developments made in the Valley. Day after day the incidents of killing people were taking place. Many steps were taken by the militants to frighten the people. The crackdowns made the worst condition. The novel also depicts many incidents in relation to the terrorism. It is arguments can terrorism be controlled by force and power only? Crackdowns were made against insurgency. But the question is can every man belonging to a critical area be considered as a terrorist? There are so many incidents of crackdowns. The writer gave the names of X, Y, Z to the villages who come in contact with crackdowns:

“Village Z came under crackdown and the headmaster of the school was picked up, a bastard by the name of A. he stood accused of being a militant. He dared to lie and deny it, saying he was not a militant but a headmaster. He was asked to identify which of his pupils were militants and this man, this self-avowed headmaster, had the nerve to claim not only that he did not know about his own students but also that he didn’t know any militants at all. But every Kashmiri was a militant as had been laid down by the political echelon and so this liar was lying and needed to be assisted towards the truth.”(Rushdie 1995: 292)

Thus the loss can be seen from both sides. In any of the case only the common people have to suffer whether it can be a terrorist attack or a way to control the terrorism. Only Common people have to suffer from violence. Pachigam could not escape itself from crackdown; it only exists on the official maps of Kashmir.

“This official existence, this paper self is its only memorial, for where Pachigam once stood by the blithe Muskadoon, where its little street ran along from the pandit’s house to the sarpanch’s (head of village), where Abdullah roared and Boonyi danced and Shivshankar sang and Shalimar the clown walked the tightrope as if treading upon air, nothing resembling a human habitation remains.”(Rushdie 1995: 309)

We see how terrorism affected the whole mankind with its harmful consequences. Through the character of Shalimar the Clown, we see how revenge makes him terrorist who later on becomes the cause of killing of people and then suppression becomes the cause of crackdown. Terrorism is a global phenomenon which needs special attention. Anti-terrorist action is most effective and successful when it is supported by public opinion. This has been the reason for the end do menace of terrorism. Patriotism is a noble sentiment. But too much of patriotism is bad. It can lead to international conflicts. Excessive patriotism becomes aggressive and it makes the people intolerant of other communities and countries. So we should have an international outlook. We should realize that no men are foreign and no country is strange. Thus to control the terrorism mutual understanding is also necessary between different cultures and communities. The message of international brotherhood can be spread all over the world to overcome terrorism.

                                                              Works Cited:

Gautam, Dr Vijeta. “Stripping off Humanity in Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown”. International Journal of English and Education, vol.3.1, Jan. 2014. web. 29 jan.2015.

Gigoo, Siddhartha. The Garden of Solitude. New Delhi: Rupa Publications, 2011. Print.

Pandita, Rahul. Our Moon Has Blood Clots. Noida: Random House, 2013. Print.

Rushdie, Salman. Shalimar the Clown. London: Vintage Books, 2005. Print.

Rushdie, Salman. “Shalimar the Clown. “ Rev. of Flame- Broiled Whopper, ed. Theo Toit. London Review of Books 29 January 2015. Print.

Libaw, Oliver. ‘How Do You Define Terrorism?’ ABC News, 7 Jan 2006.

Date of access- 11 Jan 2015.

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