To the north of the Indian peninsula, uncomfortably locked between Pakistan and China, lies the land mass of Jammu and Kashmir. To some it is home but to majority of us who sit a few hundred thousand kilometers away, it is a symbol of India’s unity and pride. The shinning crown. Unfortunately this symbol of vanity has been the focus of strife in all its sixty three years of existence with the Indian mainland. It has been inherited through war & blood and continues to be a painful bleeding sore on the forehead of India.
The events of last few months have further added to the tragedy of Kashmir. The spectrum of resistance in Kashmir has seen a new hue. The struggle for azadi (freedom) has new voices and so do the brutalities committed by the Indian state in the name of guarding sovereignty and national interests. The line between sovereignty and subjugation has faded. They want azadi and we want a hold on this strategic geo-political mass. Who is right and who is wrong? Are we really interested in the Kashmiri people or are our interests limited to Kashmir, the valley?
It is regrettable that as nationalist Indians we think of Kashmir only when the valley prods us with violent protests, custodial deaths or brutality of armed forces/the terrorists. Kashmir as an assimilation point in the mainland of India does not exist in our imagination. Whenever we talk of Kashmir it is ceremonial to quote a racist Persian proverb, “Gher qahet ul rejal uftand ba sey uns kum gheri, Yeke Afghan, doyam Kamboh, soyum badzat Kashmiri” which simply translated means even if there is scarcity of humanity, do not get closer to three subsets of people namely Afghans, Kambohs and the rogue Kashmiris. How convenient to disown a whole subset of people which have existed for thousands of years on the very land which we so proudly call our motherland.
The severance of Kashmir’s umbilical cord with India is near complete. We don’t think of them and they don’t assume us in their imagination. Do we care if villagers of rural Kashmir develop a unique psychiatric illness called the midnight knock syndrome (following late night searches by security forces)? Do we bother if psychiatric illnesses are the maximum amongst Kashmiri Pandits settled in Jammu? How many of us even know that one third of Kashmiris in the age group of 15 to 40 years have some form of substance abuse? How many of us would stand for the cause of a Kashmiri student who has been denied accommodation in Delhi due to his decent? Does it not bother an economist Prime Minister if Kashmir is ranked 22nd amongst the states of the Indian union in terms of per capita income (at Rs.20,604)? How come a Harvard educated Home Minister does not realize the perils of staggering unemployment rates in the valley? Kashmiris do not exist on the national agenda. How can we expect assimilation of Kashmir when we have opened so many veins which bleed the valley white? To be honest, we stand accused of injecting nihilism in the valley.
I agree that a large part of the problem has its birth in the Pakistan sponsored separatist movement of the 80s and 90s. But what we do not realize is the slow transition of this state sponsored separatist movement into a full fledged struggle for azadi by the masses of Kashmir. Cognizant ignorance of Kashmiri grievances combined with an incompetent political class has worked as a catalyst in the process of this transition. The use of force, application of draconian laws, fake encounters by security forces and apathy towards the common Kashmiri by the motherland has only given teeth to the call for azadi. India’s sovereignty and Kashmir’s azadi are at loggerheads in the valley. The human cost of this never ending war is phenomenal. The wailing of Kashmiri mothers, sisters and daughters has a deafening echo in the realms of civil society across the globe. Mainland India stands accused for this extraordinary situation. Every stone pelting Kashmiri killed by an Indian bullet gives birth to ten more protesters ready to die for the cause of Kashmiriyat. We do not realize that the role of Pakistan and of hate breeding jehadi terrorist camps from across the border is fast diminishing. Kashmir, the proxy war with Pakistan, is near over; we are now fighting our own people – young boys and girls fuelled by failure of faith on part of India. The accusation, humiliation, torture, rape and killings have only added to the ever swelling numbers of protestors who come out to face the frustration of the motherland.
The “ostrich syndrome” of burying our heads in the sand thinking everything is well, is not working in Kashmir. We have tried bullets. We have played the batons. The failure of force is too evident to be ignored. The monster is staring us direct in the eye. It’s time we blink. It’s time we think. The ignominy of forceful suppression in Kashmir is now beginning to show up. The bloody trail of the past three months should be discomforting for a nation which bears foundation of a non-violent freedom struggle. The call for azadi can be overlooked but can we ignore the smell of human flesh and blood? It is said that peace is not the absence of war but the presence of justice. The Kashmir valley pleads for justice. The serenity of Chasme Shahi, the blue waters of Wular Lake and the dew drops on the pines is not what makes Kashmir an integral part of India. Beating hearts, free minds, aspiring thoughts and a mist of warm breath is what Kashmir is all about.