Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Mafias, Mujahideen and Agha Shahid Ali's Rizvan.

“We also have mafia in Kashmir.' said Zafir-  a 38 year old former Mathematics teacher, now working, thanks to E.U funding, as an agricultural labourer on land seized from criminals in Corleone, Sicily-  "The mujahideen are like mobsters. I look at what the Italians have done here, I realise how far away my land is.”

Zafir says he hopes to buy land in Italy and to settle on it with his wife who is currently back in Kashmir. However, his wage, from the E.U Migrant Fund, is only 600 euros per month which works out to little more than, to international scandal, the Mafia paid African migrants to work in similar fields only a couple of years ago. The NGO which helps Zafir probably receives more than 1200 euros per month for helping him. Still, the danger exists that the Mafia may gun him down so as to scare off that NGO from cultivating their sequestered land.

How much would Zafir have earned in Kashmir as a teacher? His base salary would have been about 300 Euros per month. For a 38 year old, sound in wind and limb and capable of displaying a little initiative, 500 Euros per mensem would be easily achievable.  Yet Zafir isn't teaching Maths in Kashmir, he is learning how to cultivate the land- like his remote or illiterate ancestors.
Why? Well, the  E.U and the Italian Government are paying upward of Euros 1800 per month between them, of which Zafir gets to keep 600, so that some stupid bureaucratic pretense that a single arrow is hitting multiple incompossible targets, is farcically kept up. 

What is noteworthy is that Zafir is now no safer from a Mafia bullet than he was from a Mujahideen bullet and the work he does, however ineptly, now is far harder, much less Socially beneficially, and offers fewer prospects for promotion. Still, it may be, Zafir will gain settlement rights and start up a business or migrate to a more salubrious area- perhaps even the U.K, which was probably his preferred destination at the inception of his Odyssey. 

Thus, unlike the Mafia, which terrorized Sicily and which is making millions out of the migrant crisis, or the Euro-Italian bureaucracy- complicit if not in cahoots with this bonanza for criminality, corruption and clownishly cosmetic social engineering- Zafir and his possible descendants, if his wife manages to join him, may actually end up making a positive contribution to Europe. 

 Still, the fact remains that Europe is out of pocket by at least 1800 Euros a month by keeping him in Corleone. The market clearing price for agricultural labour in the area might be 500 Euros once Agricultural subsidies have been discounted. 

Clearly, sooner or later, laws will be changed to reflect the fiscal realities of Migration and such subventions will cease. Indeed, if the Mafia ever really ceases to morph and thus loses power, then the corrupt constituency for such subventions will itself disappear. Ever larger numbers of migrants washing up on Italian shores, however, will not.

Zafir was taking a well trodden path to prosperity when he set out on his adventure. Asylum seekers, bogus or otherwise, who arrived in Europe in the last three decades generally improved their life-chances and those of subsequent arrivals similar to themselves. It seems this may no longer be the case. More and more migrants, like Zafir, will find themselves either in privately run Refugee Camps where they are brutalized and illicitly used as cheap labor or else exiled to remote rural locations and a life of back breaking toil. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs and highly educated professionals from their home countries will easily get Visas and crowd out the poorer class of natives from desirable neighborhoods in thriving Cities. This is especially true of countries- like India- which are growing rapidly. However, so long as Mujahideen exist, such growth will be uneven and there will be more Zafirs.

In India, teachers in Govt. Schools count the votes at elections. This can make them a target for Radical Outfits- often funded by the very diaspora their actions created- which have declared a boycott of the polling booths. Thus, teachers may feel they have to flee knowing full well that by doing so they are destroying the life chances of the rising generation and thus handing victory to the thugs who drove them out.

Agha Shahid Ali, the Kashmiri-American poet who, as a child was permitted to have a 'puja' altar to Krishna in his room by his Shiah parents, and who relished the cuisine of the Pandits whom the Muhajideen ethnically cleansed from his natal valley, wrote a prose poem called 'The Country without a Post Office' which contains the following line- 'You must have heard Rizwan was killed. Rizwan: Guardian of the Gates of Paradise.'

The Mafia, like the Mujahideen, too claimed to be Guardians. Indeed, they got their claws into Corleone claiming to safeguard property rights and family honor and Sicilian culture. But they weren't the only 'Guardians' jockeying for position. Where the claims of Governments overlap- even those of a nation and that of the wider political union it has voluntarily acceded to- disaster swiftly follows.

As a young Kashmiri poet- in my novel, Samlee's daughter- says

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