Protest, poetry and the blazing chinar: A silent art revolution in the University of Kashmir

“Rising buildings and rising machines,
have taken away all my teens,
taken away all my fields to play,
taken away all my sunny days.”
– Ovais Ahmad

In a platonic sort of way, under the Chinars in the Naseem Bagh of the Kashmir university, a group of students have gathered.

A place known to curb dissent and disallow a Union of students, the University has unsurprisingly found art as a way to express itself.

Near the Department of Music and Fine Arts, a place which has a reputation for being a meeting point for different artists of the University, a melody of sounds and recitals is taking place.

An open air Slam Poetry and Art installation session, independently organised by students from different departments of the University of Kashmir, is gracing the shadowy corner of the varsity.

Participants use different styles of narration. While some stick to classic Urdu Ghazal style of oratory, some choose the Saul Williams’ styled flamboyance.

Themes, talking about personal lives, and societal issue like oppression and resistance were given equal measure.

“Mera bhi haal urdu sa,
ki apnay bhi paraaye hai,
muje apna assar koi banata,
to gazab hota.”
– Syed Zeeshan Hamdani

Hamdani follows a long line of poets. Grandson of the famous Kashmiri poet, Syed Akbar Jaipuri, Hamdani recites his poetry about the slow death of the Urdu language. Its fall from grace, like the Mughals, like the lamentations of a language.


“It is interesting to see students sharing their poetry, written on the back of their class notebooks,” says one of the spectators, appreciating the concept behind this slam poetry event.

Last year a film ‘In the Shade of Fallen Chinar‘ documented how art has as a form of dissent taken roots. The film, interestingly, was banned from being screened at an event in Kerala.

Speaking on the occasion, one of the organizers Faakirah Irfan, a Law student, said one of the main objective to hold such events is to allow poets and artists to showcase their talent in small gatherings too.

“Artists don’t have to wait for a big event to exhibit their work and can instead showcase it in small gatherings that can be held over short intervals of time,” she said.

She added, “We, as artists, need to inculcate a habit of indulgence and hold such events on a weekly basis.”

Slam poetry is a popular medium for poets to recite their original work .It is also a form of protest and a means of questioning authority.

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